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Oberlin to stop practice of orange tags for utility shutoffs


OBERLIN — The city no longer will post an orange tag on the homes of residents whose utilities are about to be shut off after some complained that doing so was “shaming.”

Council decided instead to direct the city staff to create some sort of door hanger with the relevant information.

Councilwoman Sharon Pearson said she has been contacted by some residents who said posting an orange tag on the front door is shaming residents who haven’t paid their bill.

Council on Monday discussed several ways to go about notifying people that their utilities are about to be shut off without drawing negative attention to a home.

However, Finance Director Sal Talarico said the orange tag method works.

Over a 12-month period, the city mailed 366 notices to residents 14 days prior to when their utilities would be shut off and issued 246 of the orange seven-day last notices.

“Before the seven-day tag, we were shutting off about 70 per year, but now it’s about 20,” Talarico said. “Our collective goal is to reduce the number of utility shutoffs and keep it as low as possible.”

Law Director Jon Clark said there’s nothing in the city code that demand the notice be an orange tag, but the city does have to give residents due process with proper notice of a pending shutoff.

“I think perception is reality and people are feeling embarrassed and ashamed to have that be seen by people walking and driving down the street,” Pearson said. “I don’t want that for our residents. I want our residents to feel welcome.”

But other Council members said the bigger embarrassment is having the utilities shut off. Council members also defended Talarico, saying the new method has saved people the discomfort of being without water or electricity.

“The most embarrassing thing to me would be to come home and my lights are off and my water is off. An orange tag? That’s another story,” Council President Ronnie Rimbert said.

Plus, it costs more money for the resident to turn back on the electricity or water once it’s been turned off.

“If I didn’t have the money to keep it on, I don’t have the money to turn it on,” Rimbert said.

Contact Jodi Weinberger at 329-7245 or Follow her on Twitter @Jodi_Weinberger.

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