A tough economy is making it difficult for some Canal Winchester residents to pay their utility bills.

A tough economy is making it difficult for some Canal Winchester residents to pay their utility bills.

As a result, village officials are issuing more shut-off notices for water service and Canal Winchester Human Services is receiving more requests for help in paying for utilities.

In October, the village issued 133 shut-off notices to residents for unpaid water bills. Of those, water was actually turned off to 22 homes. All but six of those delinquent bills were paid by Nov. 19, according to public works director Matt Peoples.

Village officials believe the six homes still without water may be vacant, he said.

"It seems to be increasing here recently," Peoples said of the delinquent bills. "With economic conditions the way they are, that can play into that. That was a high number of actual shut-offs. Most of the time, people come in and pay their bills."

Canal Winchester Human Services director Penny Miller said her organization has seen an increase in requests for utility assistance.

"It is staggering," she said. "If fact, we have had so many requests this year that for the first time in 55 years, we had to suspend emergency assistance because we are out of money. We are desperate for money for that particular fund."

Miller said in 2005, she received maybe two to three calls a month for utility assistance. Now, Canal Winchester Human Services is receiving two to three calls a day from people who need help with their utilities and rent.

In order to be eligible for utility assistance, the applicant must be the individual or head of household and live within the Canal Winchester school district, she said. A written request must be made listing the assistance being sought.

The organization will provide a maximum of $100 a year for utility assistance and up to $250 a year in rent assistance. Village finance director Nanisa Osborn said bills mailed on Sept. 13 were for water used in July and August. They were due Oct. 10. Late notices were sent Oct. 13 with payment due by Oct. 23.

Shut-off tags were hung on doors on Oct. 25 and shuts-offs were done Oct. 27, she said.

The average utility bill (water, sewer, stormwater) in Canal Winchester is $116.42 for two months, Osborn said.

Peoples said residents are given 30 days to pay their bills before being issued a late notice. The late bills go out with a 10-percent penalty and residents have 10 days to pay. After that, shut-off notices are issued and within two days, the water is shut off. The village is willing to work with residents to set up a payment plan if they are behind, depending on how far in debt a homeowner is or if the homeowner has met previous financial obligations, Peoples said.

"If we have had people come in before and make (a request) and not honor it, we won't allow a payment plan," he said. "We obviously realize that people come into situations that are unavoidable for them. We like to do anything we can to help out."However, Peoples said Canal Winchester needs the money to operate its water, sewer and storm utilities.

Most of the time, the village is able to resolve the issue with the homeowner, Peoples said.

"To be without water for a few days is really a catastrophic event," he said.

Peoples said before he moved to Canal Wincheter, he once had to go a day and half without water because of a water line break.

"You don't realize how much water you use until you don't have it to use," he said.

Once someone has caught up their water bill, service is restored immediately, Peoples said, although there is a $25 charge to turn the water back on.