PARLIER – At its Sept. 21 meeting, the Parlier City Council approved a water discontinuation policy for residents who are delinquent on their water bills, which is the same policy the city implemented in February 2020. However, owing to a lack of consistency in enforcing the policy, City Attorney Neil Constanza presented the policy once more to the council for official city adoption.
In addition to inconsistent enforcement, Constanza said the city failed to comply with state law in 2020 because it did not post the policy on the city’s website in both English and Spanish. He added that the city also failed to comply with state regulations by not reporting the number of shut offs to the state water board each month.
“Not the (home) address or the person, or anything like that,” Constanza said.
He then outlined the provisions of the policy, in part to allay fears that the city would act in haste when shutting off a resident’s water.
“You (the city) have to make very extreme efforts to make contact with the actual occupants where the water service is being provided (before shutting off the water),” Constanza said. He added the customer must be provided with a copy of the discontinuation policy.
The policy provides numerous contingencies for customers to avoid having their water shut off. First, a customer must be behind on their bill for at least 60 days before the city acts. Second, as Constanza said, the city must take exhaustive action to contact the customer, including telephoning, writing and visiting the residence.
The city will not shut off a resident’s water if all of the following apply:
- Depriving a resident of water poses a serious threat to the health and safety of the individual or individuals living at the residence.
- The resident is on any type of government assistance, including CalWorks, Cal Fresh, MediCal or if the annual household income is less than 200% the federal poverty level
- The customer agrees to enter a payment plan.
Residents who receive a shutoff notice and who appeal will not have their water discontinued while the appeals process is ongoing.
Mayor Alma Beltran said she received complaints from residents that their water was shut off immediately after receiving a shutoff notice. She said some residents whose water had been shut off were enrolled in payment plans.
“Once the number of shutoffs is reported on the website, we’ll see the number of hardships we have here (in Parlier),” said Beltran. “Some people have to decide to put food on their table or pay their water bill.”
Beltran added that some Parlier residents do not qualify for any assistance because they are not in the country legally.
“It’s very important that we don’t harm our community,” she said. “We must work with them.”
Mayor Pro Tem Sabrina Rodriguez expressed confusion as to why the policy was being presented to the council.
“This was already approved in 2020, correct?” Rodriguez asked Constanza.
Constanza said the policy was provided to the city staff, including code enforcement, and these individuals were charged with adopting the policy. But the council was not given the policy.
Rodriguez then asked for clarification on what policy the city was enforcing before, if it was not the policy that the council now had before it at the Sept. 21 meeting.
“What was our department going off of? That wasn’t written anywhere?” she asked.
Constanza confirmed that the policy presented at the council meeting was the same policy presented to city staff in February 2020.