With the number of monthly water shut-offs doubling, the Sunnyside City Council agreed to toughen penalties on late water payments.
From 60 or 70 water shut-offs a month for non-payment last year, the number has grown to 140 shut-offs every month.
And that's from a customer base of 3,200 hook-ups, according to Finance Director Scott James.
The measure passed by council last night undoes action taken following a previous water rate study.
According to City Manager Bob Stockwell, the rate study recommended charging the same fee of $25 whether someone paid their water bill late, or had their water shut-off due to non-payment. The intent was to deter late or non-payment of water bills.
"What resulted is that we're seeing a higher delinquency rate (in paying water bills)," Stockwell said.
Last night council approved a $10 penalty for those paying their water bills after the 20th of the month, and a separate $20 penalty for a water shut-off.
James said the changes come just as city sewer rates are set to rise 10 percent on June 1. Sunnyside city water, sewer, garbage and ambulance fees are all included in the same monthly bill.
The code change also authorizes Stockwell to hike the late fee by up to 6 percent each year.
"We're thinking about higher penalties for repeat offenders," James said.