AYER -- Last year the overdue water and sewer balances due topped $278,000. A year later, the total water/sewer sum due to the town of Ayer is $304,544.72.
The Ayer selectmen voted unanimously to post the delinquent accounts on the Town of Ayer website (www.ayer.ma.us) starting on Jan. 2. The Finance Committee likewise recommended the online posting at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said the online data would be "updated basically daily" by IT Systems Administrator Cindy Knox in concert with Tax Collector John Canney. Those who pay will have their names taken down off the website once payment is processed.
Pontbriand advised the public not to panic if their name appears online. "If you show up on the list, it's not intended to embarrass people -- it's intended to notify people," said Pontbriand. "If there's a mistake, call the Board of Selectmen's office. We'll correct that immediately. There are always 1 or 2 mistakes."
Pontbriand noted that last year's move to post delinquent accounts online was "positive and successful" in terms of the town receiving payment. New this year - the selectmen, as water commissioners, authorized a water service shut off policy this fall.
Pontbriand said the DPW issued its first batch of shut-off notices this week "including the top 25 on the list" of delinquent accounts. Service will cease following multiple notice attempts starting at the end of January for those accounts not current with payment.
Approve but hold license renewals
The selectmen voted to approve common victualler and other business licenses up for renewal in the New Year. However the board agreed that the licenses would be held in the selectmen's vault -- to be released only by the town administrator -- for 11 businesses that owe taxes, water/sewer balances or both.
Between the 11 businesses, less than $30,000 is owed. For two of the 11 businesses, less than $10 is owed.
Pontbriand said that business owners have until noon on Dec. 31, New Year's Eve, to pay overdue sums. Failing payment, "I won't give out the license," pledged Pontbriand.
While business owners may appeal the board's decision to withhold licenses, they do so in the New Year with a hearing following 14 days notice. "So there's no license until that's held and so they cannot operate," said Pontbriand.
Pontbriand noted that letters had been sent to the 11 delinquent business owners seeking payment and advising of their license's stalled status.
Conley asked about the two businesses that owe less than $10. Wendy's owes $9.50 in interest due for an overdue balance dating back to 2005. And Don's Auto owes $5 on interest owed on a 2008 balance.
"I was on [the list] for 15 cents last year," noted Chair Jim Fay. Fay suggested, however, "We should not be making exceptions for money amount."
Conley noted businesses can strike payment plans with the Tax Collector's Office to have licenses released in lieu of full payment at this time.
The list originally stood at 13 delinquent businesses. But on Tuesday, two restaurants -- Ah Gin Wong and Wok N Roll -- were unanimously granted their 2013 common victualler licenses on Tuesday night after paying water and sewer sums due.
In other business news, the selectmen unanimously voted to recommend approval by the state for a doubling of the store size for the Vineyard Liquor Store at 63 Park Street. Owner Jeff Gendron said he plans to double the floor space from 1300 to 2600 square feet and offer convenience store items for sale. Final approval rests with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC).