New Whiteland resident John Batey put his sewer and trash payment in the mail, as he does every month, six days before it was due.
But last month, his wife noticed that the check was never cashed. They asked why and learned that they would be charged a $3.38 late fee because their payment was delayed in the mail.
Here’s why: The town government moved its offices, and a week lag time before the post office started delivering mail to the new office caused the payment from Batey and about 50 other residents and businesses to be late.
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Town officials say town rules require a 10 percent late fee if bills are not at town hall by the 21st of each month, without exception.
And the Batey family isn’t the only one facing a fee. About 50 others will see a fee of 76 cents to $6.11 on their bills next month, according to New Whiteland town manager Terry Spencer.
Town officials said they don’t think the fee is fair, but the town council hasn’t waived it — yet.
First, members need to determine which bills were late due to the post office glitch, rather than just being mailed late, Spencer said. The town lawyer also is looking at the original rule to see if a one-time exemption can be made.
In some cases, bills mailed to town hall were delayed by more than two weeks, Spencer said.
The town government moved from their longtime offices at 401 Mooreland Drive to a newly remodeled building at 540 Tracy Road. Spencer asked the Whiteland post office to forward town mail to their new location starting Jan. 20. Once the post office started forwarding the mail, some letters that were postmarked as early as Jan. 14 were not delivered to the new address until Jan. 30. When he asked the post office why mail was delayed for that long, he was told that it was a glitch in the system.
All utility bills are due by the 21st of each month. And under the town’s rules, even if a bill is postmarked by the due date, it is considered late if it did not arrive at the town office on time.
‘We hate it too, but it’s really a post office issue,’ Spencer said. ‘I have no authority to waive these fees.’
The town council could waive the fees by changing the ordinance, Spencer said. To waive the fees would mean possibly amending the original rule for late fees in the town, he said.
Now that the office has been permanently moved to its new location, he said, payments should not be delivered late again.
Spencer brought the issue to a town council meeting this week, and the council wanted to look into granting a one-time exemption for those whose bills were postmarked before the due date. The town’s lawyer is looking at the language in the original ordinance to see if there is any way to grant an exemption. Town employees are searching to determine which bills were mailed too late for the deadline and who was affected by the post office delay, Spencer said.
The town council will decide if a one-time exemption can be made to waive the fees at the next meeting Feb. 17.
Batey does not plan to change his method of payment for his utility bill each month. He has paid his late fee of $3.38, but if council decides to waive the fees altogether, he would get a refund.
Some residents in New Whiteland received a late fee tacked on to their sewer utility bill after the mail was delivered after bills were due because payments were forwarded.
Customers affected: About 50 New Whiteland residents and businesses
Late fees: 76 cents up to $6.11, based on 10 percent of the utility bill
How many days late: Some bills were delivered 16 days after they were postmarked.