ASHTABULA — Residents soon will receive a “catch up” sewer and trash bill that will be much bigger than normal — but late fees or property tax assessments for all of 2019 will be suspended — as the city works to get up-to-date after falling several billing cycles behind.

The city got behind on sewer and trash bills, which are typically mailed to a total of 9,000 to 10,000 customers every two months, when it switched to a new software system in March 2018.

“The big ones should be in the mail by April 18; that’s our target date,” Finance Director Traci Welch said Monday. “I understand people are frustrated. They want their bills and they want to pay them.”

In order to catch up, Welch said the bills might be three times larger than normal.

After the catch up, bills will begin to go out on the normal billing cycle starting in May. That means some people will get a large bill in April and then receive an additional bill a few weeks later.

The goal was originally to send bills out by the end of March. Welch said she has now gotten the software company more involved in the process.

Council unanimously approved an ordinance on March 18 to suspend late penalties and fees for all of 2019, suspend the practice of assessing unpaid sewer and trash bills on property taxes until 2020 and authorize payment arrangements with customers affected by late billings.

Part of the issue came when former Finance Director Dana Pinkert moved to South Carolina in July, but did not start Welch until October.

Welch has said her first priority at the time was drafting a budget and correcting sewer and trash bills were put on hold until the budget was completed in December.

Because she took over seven months after the software conversion, Welch doesn’t know how things got to this point.

She’s just focusing on getting it corrected, she said.

President John Roskovics said because the billing delay is the city’s fault, council members all agreed it wouldn’t be fair to penalize residents.

Welch said some people are upset with the delays, but most people who have contacted the city have been understanding.

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