NORRIDGEWOCK — Town officials moved one step closer on Wednesday night to allowing selectman-elect Charlotte Curtis to take her seat on the board.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept a new sewer payment policy, and an auditor will review the town’s financial books next week.

If the audit is in order, selectmen can then sign a certificate of settlement with Curtis, who was elected March 5 but has not been able to serve because of lingering matters from when she was town treasurer.

The unusual situation has cast light on an often obscure part of town affairs: collecting sewer bills. There is no state statute requiring towns or regions to adopt sewer payment policies, as there is for tax bills, so sanitary districts tend to differ in their procedures.

Because of her former elected treasurer position, Curtis continues to remain responsible for the uncollected money owed on residents’ sewer bills because she did not place liens on some accounts. The unfinished business is causing the delay because Maine law states treasurers can’t simultaneously serve as municipal officers.

As treasurer, Curtis sometimes did not record liens because she said she didn’t want people’s homes to be foreclosed on because of a sewer bill.

While town treasurers legally cannot place a lien on any account more than a year old, they can place one on the most recent unpaid account. Under the new Norridgewock policy then, if people do pay, the money would offset the oldest charge. If people don’t pay, the foreclosure process would begin, and the town could ultimately collect payment that way.

With a way to guarantee payment, a new treasurer would be more likely to take on the responsibility of the unpaid accounts. Then, with someone else in charge of the sewer bills, Curtis could take her seat on the board.

Waterville attorney William A. Lee has been assisting Norridgewock and said the sewer payment policy should be adopted by the sewer commissioners and re-adopted by the new board of selectmen each year.

It’s also a good idea for all towns and regions supporting sanitary districts to approve similar policies, he said.

“I suspect that a lot of them may follow such an approach, but they may not have expressly adopted a policy to authorize it,” Lee said. “If they haven’t officially adopted a policy, I would certainly think municipal sewer districts and regional sewer districts would want to do that. It protects them in the lien process.”

Bingham has a policy requiring that sewer payments offset the oldest unpaid charge, and selectmen sign it each year, First Selectman Steve Steward said.

In Madison and Anson, the sewer bill process is handled by the quasi-municipal Anson-Madison Sanitary District. It’s standard procedure that payments go to the oldest charge first, but the bylaws don’t specify that they have to.

There is no policy specifically for the North Anson collection facility, but it is standard practice to apply payments to the oldest charge, said Bob Worthley, administrative assistant to selectmen.

Worthley is also Anson treasurer and said he always files liens when appropriate. His position is appointed and therefore overseen by selectmen.

Fairfield Town Manager Joshua Reny said the town council adopted a sewer payment policy in 2006. It’s not re-approved each year but rather is considered enforced until amended or repealed, he said.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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