Tignish town council has begun a campaign to collect an estimated $20,000 in overdue water and sewer bills, according to Mayor Allan McInnis.

At a special meeting Tuesday, council approved sending registered letters to each homeowner warning them to pay their delinquent bill or risk having their service cut off.

"Some people need a little tap and some people need a big shove," said McInnis.

"$20,000 is a lot for a small community when you only have a budget of $500,000, so we just finished spending $1.6 million for this new lagoon ... have to make payments of $4,000 a month for the lagoon plus all the maintenance costs that we have to run the lagoon for the upcoming year."

Allan McInnis

Tignish mayor Allan McInnis says the the overdue accounts range between $500 and $4,000. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

McInnis said some of the outstanding bills go back to 2016 and the amounts owing range between $500 and $4,000. 

​When they do receive their letter, customers will be given a grace period to make arrangements with the town to pay their bill

If they don't, McInnis said council will have no other option but to cut off service.

'They will be shut off'

"I mean we have to, we have to show example, and if you go out there and if you're threatening people that their service is going to be shut off, then they will be shut off," McInnis said. 

"If Maritime Electric don't get your money you're shut off. If Irving Oil doesn't get their money, then they don't deliver any more oil. If the town people that are using the utilities aren't paying for utilities, then they have to be shut off, simple as that."

If those bills aren't paid, McInnis said council may also consider turning to a collection agency to see if it can recoup some of the outstanding money.

Last resort

He said said shutting off services is always a last resort.

Tignish Lagoon

The town recently completed construction of a new $1.6 million sewage lagoon. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Before reaching that point, staff will attempt to set up a payment plan with the homeowner.

"If they even come in and try and pay their bills, we'll be a bit lenient, but if somebody just digs their heels in and don't want to come in and pay, well, they're going to be cut off. We're not going to fool around. If they don't pay their bills, they're going to be cut off."

McInnis said he would like to see all outstanding money collected before the town's audit is done in February.