Frankford aims to settle bilingual billing dispute

Like many towns in the area, Frankford is growing. But unlike some of its neighbors, with that growth in Frankford comes continued diversity in both culture and language. And with that diversity come challenges.

The Frankford Town Council spent a great deal of time at their December meeting speaking with Jay Feldman of the Martin Feldman Foundation in regard to a missing trash can for one of his tenants and questions about a water bill. Unfortunately for Feldman, and for the council, the tenant, whose native language is Spanish, was not there to provide any clarification.

Feldman said his understanding was that his tenant had been told that the town would not accept his water bill payment because of an old debt the homeowner – Feldman – had regarding a trash can and trash service.

“That disturbed me a lot,” said Feldman, to which council president Greg Johnson replied, “Me, too. We don’t turn down money.”

Feldman also relayed that the tenant had said he was told he would have to pay everything owed or his water would be shut off – another claim the town refuted.

“He paid the water bill, $63.70, in July,” said Town Administrator Terry Truitt, referring to the bill for water used May through July. “The next water bill, which was $90, something went to the tenant and the owner, and he [the tenant] came in in September and said he had just moved in in July.”

Truitt offered that any dispute over who actually owed the town for the water used before the tenant moved in was between the owner and the tenant, not the town.

“We never threatened to turn the water off. We just couldn’t un-post a payment,” she said.

Council Member Vincent Leon-Check said that he had spoken with the tenant in Spanish – which is also Leon-Check’s native language – and the tenant had expressed concerns that he had been paying bills that were not his.

“I asked him how he was treated by Terry, and his words were that she was ‘lovely,’” said Leon-Check. “That’s what he told me in Spanish.”

The council decided that Truitt, Leon-Check, Feldman and the tenant would sit down to discuss everything, to clear the air and make sure things get resolved. As to the original water bill, which was for water used before the tenant said he moved in, Johnson said to Feldman, “You’re going to pay it.”

In other news:

The town also voted to spend $1,195, plus $795 for installation, on a steel door at town hall because the existing door leaks when it rains. They also voted to spend $3,395 on a truckload of salt for water treatment at the old water plant. The new plant is currently being “de-constructed” to get ready for its retro-fitting that will make the new plant operable. A pre-construction meeting was set for Wednesday, Dec. 16, and there will be a meeting on the water plant’s progress in mid-January.

The town has also been approached about using the old Eagle Poultry site on Walnut Street as a used-car lot and has forwarded the request to Dennis Schrader, the town attorney, for more information.

Resident Jerry Smith asked the council why, even though Frankford has only one police officer, his hours couldn’t be altered to get more “bang for your buck” and to combat crime when it actually happens.

“If we only have one officer, why not use that officer on nights and weekends more than during banking hours?” he asked.

The council had been scheduled to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues, but Johnson noted that, whatever the decision, Police Chief William Dudley’s schedule wouldn’t be readily known to the public.

Frankford’s Holiday House Decorating Contest was in full effect this week, and judging was set to happen at any time before Christmas Eve. There will be three categories: Best Overall, with monetary prizes for first, second and third places; Best Door, with first, second and third places; and 10 honorable mentions.

“We hope everybody participates,” said Truitt.