Rising Sun's water tower

RISING SUN — If there has been any good news from the global pandemic it’s that people are learning to adapt to technology including online bill paying.

Rising Sun’s mayor and commissioners voted Tuesday night to eliminate the fee associated with paying online for water and sewer service each month. The fee-free payments began in March when the COVID-19 stay at home orders were brand new.

“The COVID regulations put forth by (Gov. Larry Hogan) forbids the use of convenience fees,” Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator, explained ahead of the introduction of a pair of resolutions that brought all the connected policies under one heading, set the process for water cut offs or disconnections, and established fees and penalties.

Bonenberger explained that Rising Sun would continue to absorb the estimated loss of $9,600, which amounts to 3% of each bill paid online.

“That fee is a merchant charge for a service provided by a third party software,” he said. “But we’re seeing a large increase in the use of online payment because of COVID.”

“If we permanently eliminate the charge even after the governor lifts the restriction we think we’ll continue to see an increase in online payments,” Bonenberger added. “We’ll have to pay the 3rd party vendor but it’s worth it.”

While Hogan’s orders also forbade utility cut offs, Bonenberger suggested to the board that they make a decision now how to handle that situation once those regulations are also lifted.

“We are still billing monthly but shutting off quarterly,” he said. That includes a 10% penalty fee. The resolution passed Tuesday night will also start the cut-off process monthly rather than quarterly. “Otherwise we’re setting people up for failure.”

Acknowledging job losses and other impacts brought on by the coronavirus it was noted that Rising Sun is the only town in Cecil County that offers a payment plan for those behind on their water and sewer bills. At the same time the town also wants those customers that are deliberately late and rack up large outstanding balances to know it’s game over.

“We’re giving people 50 days to pay their bill and we won’t accept payment at the property as the water is being cut off,” he said. “And you only get two payment plans in a 12-month period.”

At the same time, the town insists it will work with customers who come forward and explain their situation.

“It takes a lot for us to shut off water,” Bonenberger said, on behalf of the town. “And we won’t shut off on a Friday or the day before a holiday.”

Expect to pay an extra $20 to get the water turned back on too.

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