PEPPERELL — The town is putting a plan in place to crack down on unpaid water and sewer bills.

The Board of Public Works unanimously approved two policies Thursday night to enforce payment of unpaid bills. The policies lay out guidelines for shutting off the water for homes with outstanding balances and placing liens on those accounts.

“We have an extraordinarily higher level of receivables than most communities,” said board member Gregory Rice.

Rice said other communities are much more stringent in enforcing payment than Pepperell has been.

The water shut-off policy involves a series of warnings, in writing and by phone, about the unpaid bills. The water would not be shut off until the payment is at least 75 days past due.

Although the policy was technically implemented at Thursday night’s meeting, it will be gradually enforced, board members said.

Member Paul Brinkman suggested beginning by focusing on collecting from those with the largest outstanding balances and gradually expanding the enforcement.

“We should be going after the most egregious accounts first, with the people who haven’t paid in almost a year first,” Brinkman said.

“It makes sense to go from the worst and cut back slowly over time rather than just taking everyone who’s in violation right now,” he said.

The lien policy, which was approved as codification of an already existing policy, calls for a lien to be placed on any property with a balance of more than $250 that is more than 180 days past due. Lien fees of $75 would also be charged for water and sewer accounts that are overdue.

Director Kenneth Kalinowski said the lien would only be enforced as a last resort. Notices will be mailed out over the coming weeks to inform those with outstanding balances of the new policy.

Kalinowski said the details of how to implement the policy haven’t been finalized yet. But the new policy won’t go into full effect until the fall, allowing residents time to prepare to pay the bills.

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