ATTLEBORO - A 74-year-old blind woman has been told a lien will be put on her South Attleboro home if she doesn't come up with a penny she owes on an outstanding utility bill.
Eileen Wilbur, of Glenn Street, said she discovered the notice of the potential lien after her daughter, Rose Brederson, came over to read her mail.
"It's so upsetting," Wilbur said. "It sent my blood pressure up so high."
The city sent Wilbur a letter dated Nov. 10 stating that if the 1 cent balance is not paid by Dec. 10, the city will assess a lien of up to $48 on Wilbur's next property tax bill.
"They wasted taxpayer money on the letter," Wilbur said, noting the 42-cent charge for a stamp.
City Collector Debora Marcoccio said the bill was sent out along with more than 2,000 others as the city tries to recoup outstanding balances before resorting to putting liens on property.
A computer automatically printed the letters for any account with a balance remaining, and they were not reviewed by staff before being sent out, Marcoccio said.
"It would be fiscally irresponsible for me to have staff weed through the bills and pull out any below a certain amount," Marcoccio said. " And what would that amount be?"
According to the letter, the outstanding balance stems from a water and sewer bill from fiscal year 2008, which ran from July 2007 to July 2008.
Marcoccio said that before lien notices are sent out, the city sends out bills for the outstanding balance.
"My question is, how come it wasn't paid when the bills went out?" she said.
In the meantime, the city is holding firm on the amount due.
Marcoccio, who called the whole situation "ridiculous," said the city will not waive the balance.
"If there's a bill, it must be paid," she said.
Brederson said her mother was very upset by the situation, but will likely end up paying the penny to avoid having the cost rise.
"The whole thing is absolutely ridiculous," she said.
MATT KAKLEY can be reached at 508-236-0333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.