NORTH OGDEN -- The city council is taking stronger measures to collect fees owed to the city.
The council voted recently that the city can shut off residents' water service if they do not pay other outstanding bills relating to ordinance violations.
Many of those violations fall under code enforcement, such as pet or parking violations, or unpaid fees like sewer or garbage.
The decision was made on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Wade Bigler dissenting.
City Attorney Dave Carlson said it's not unheard of for cities to initiate such a policy.
"We need to have some leverage so we can get people to pay their bills," he said.
The city recently changed the way it collects code enforcement fines from a criminal to civil offense. People cannot be taken to jail for not paying fines, but residents now are just letting the fines go because the city has no other recourse to collect the money.
Carlson believes the threat of water being shut off may be the answer to the problem.
Councilwoman Martha Harris said that those who get a fine for not licensing their dog may have an "I don't care" attitude, but if there are other consequences, it might be different.
Bigler doesn't agree.
"If someone is not paying their utility bills, they shouldn't have that utility ... but we shouldn't take away the utility they are paying for," Bigler said in regard to shutting off water.
He said he believes that is an unfair approach. He also maintains that not paying fines is not costing taxpayers money, so it shouldn't be a huge deal.
But Mayor Richard Harris said it is costing the taxpayers money in many ways.
"It's not right for other residents to have to pay for people not following the law," he said. "The city is very fair and patient, but out of respect for other taxpayers, we need to take action."
Residents have 60 days to pay water bills and up to 90 days to pay code enforcement-related fines. If, after that 90 days, no arrangements or attempts to pay are made, action will be started with water shut-offs.
Bigler suggested the water fines be extended to 90 days as well, but it was explained that residents already really have 90 days because the payment is for water that has already been used.
City Recorder Annette Spendlove said the city has about six pages' worth of shut-offs each month, so while shut-offs aren't rampant, they can be significant.