OSWEGO – At Monday night’s Planning and Development
Committee, Mayor Billy Barlow requested approval
of amendments to the City Plumbing Code regarding water meter bypasses and other amendments.
After dealing with issues regarding sewer fees, the mayor said they are now turning their attention to the city’s water.
Some of the city’s larger commercial water users are using bypasses on their meters, the mayor said.
Water runs through the pipe and through the meter that registers how much is being used.
However, with a bypass, water goes around the meter and they close off the pipe that runs into the meter; that way water is running through into the building but not being registered through the meter, the mayor explained.
“That way the city can’t bill you for what you’re using. Some of these people are doing this just because they don’t want to pay what they rightfully owe,” Barlow said.
After doing some research, what they found is the Health Department actually requires some places, like nursing homes, for example, that have to have a bypass because if they have to change out the meter the building still needs to have water, the mayor added.
“However, there is a lock that you can put on a bypass so we don’t have toorder them to remove the bypass,” Barlow said. “The city Plumbing Inspector will go around to the commercial users and install the locks. Then, if for some reason someone has to use their bypass they have to give notification in writing to the Plumbing Inspector and he will unlock the bypass. And, once they are done, he will re-lock it.”
That’s what this change to the plumbing code mainly addresses, the mayor said.
“It also implements a fine if we catch you using a bypass without (permission from the Plumbing Inspector). Or if you’re using it to just rip off the city,” he said.
The fine would be $1,000 for first-time offenders and then $5,000 for every time thereafter.
“I don’t know if that’s harsh enough,” the mayor said. “I’ll leave that to you (councilors) to discuss.”
The other change would be mandating the test (for a plumber’s license) be administered twice a year.
“We’re putting it in writing that the test has te be administered twice a year, once in January and once in July,” Barlow said.
Some wondered whether stealing city water was a crime.
“It’s an issue that we’ve looked at,” the City Attorney said. “This change is clearly designed as a civil penalty. It’s not a criminal law matter, yet. It certainly has the potential to be a criminal act. Any time you are taking a service away from the government, or anyone, the degree and severity increases.”
“We’re hoping that this change will curtail if not stop the practice (of installing a bypass). If not, the city could consider creating a local law that makes it a criminal act,” he added. “But for now, this is the civil route that we are asking and recommending to the
The committee sent the request to the full council for consideration.