Anyone caught stealing water from the City of Smithville is subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties under a proposed policy ordinance adopted on first reading in December by the Smithville Board of Aldermen.
The aldermen again adopted the ordinance on second and final reading Monday night, January 9 during the regular monthly meeting.
Although violators have been criminally prosecuted in the past the city has apparently had no formal policy or ordinance spelling out the terms of civil penalties and the state is recommending that it be done according to City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson
“We have had some issues with theft of water, especially this year. We recently prosecuted a gentleman and he has to make restitution on it. This (theft) does go on. Not a whole lot but it does happen. Anyway the state mandates that we have a policy,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson .
Under the new “Water and Sewer Policy and Procedures” ordinance , theft is defined as “tampering with city equipment or stealing service which is grounds for discontinuance of utility service.
If evidence suggests that a theft of services has occurred, a “Notice of Violation” may be mailed or otherwise delivered to the accused at the discretion of the City Administrator or Mayor.
The accused will be subject to a $100 violation payment as well as service call charges and costs of labor and replacement parts as detailed by the city.
If the city determines that theft of services has occurred, it reserves the right to adjust the customer’s current bill and the bills for the past twelve months of usage. If the approximate amount of service that was stolen cannot be reasonably determined, the (accused) customer’s usage will be set at two to four times the minimum bill, as set on a case by case basis by the City Administrator or the Mayor according to the facts of each case.
Service will not be restored until all payments are made including the adjusted payment for water service, violation payment, all service call charges, labor, replacement parts, and reinstatement of service charges.
Service will be reinstated only during regular working hours Monday through Friday except in the case of an emergency.
Discontinuance of service by the city shall not release the customer from liability for payment of services and the city shall not be liable for any loss or damage resulting from the discontinuance of service.
The customer whose name appears on the application for service is the person responsible for payment of all charges.
In the event any customer fails to pay any city fee or charge, the customer shall pay all costs of collection including court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the city in collecting such sums.
The city shall have the right to refuse to render service to an applicant or to any member of an applicant’s household who is living at the same address whenever such person is delinquent on any payment to the utility or had his or her service discontinued because of a violation of the regulations or policies of the city.
Under the ordinance, theft of service shall include but not be limited to the following:
*Opening valves at the curb or meter that have been turned off by city personnel
*Breaking, picking, or damaging cut-off locks
*By-passing meters in any way
*Taking unmetered water from hydrants by anyone other than an authorized official of a recognized fire department, fire insurance company, or utility for any purpose other than firefighting, testing or flushing of hydrants.
*Use of sprinkler system water service for any purpose other than fire protection
*Removing, disabling, or adjusting meter registers
*Connecting to or intentionally damaging water lines, valves, etc for the purpose of stealing or damaging city equipment
*Moving the meter or extending service without permission of the City of Smithville Water and Wastewater Department.
*Any other intentional act of defacement, destruction or vandalism to utility property or act that affects city property.
*Any intentional blockage or obstruction of city equipment.