It's amazing what a carrot and stick can accomplish.
Fed up with deadbeats who have accrued about $18 million in unpaid sewer and trash-collection bills over the years, York City officials announced in March it would be shutting off the water to those properties if the owners didn't pay up.
But first they offered an amnesty period, when people could settle their debts -- minus the 18 percent interest.
How'd it go?
Well, you would have thought they were giving away free doughnuts at City Hall last month.
For weeks, especially toward the end of April when the amnesty period ended, the phones rang off the hook and there were long lines as people waited to pay bills or, in most cases, set up payment plans.
More than 1,100 property owners came forward, resulting in an immediate cash influx worth more than $130,000. If everyone keeps to their payment plan, the city can expect to collect more than $5 million over the next few years, according to business administrator Michael O'Rourke.
And, he said, with more people paying their bills, the city might be able to ease up on what's become a series of sewer and refuse fee increases over the years.
Good news all around -- except for those who didn't go for the carrot.
They can look forward to a stick that could leave them high and dry if they don't pay up -- what's owed, plus the interest.
With the approval of the state's Public Utility Commission, city officials struck an agreement with York Water Co., which will cut water service to properties determined to be delinquent by the city.
Upon receiving notice, owner-occupied properties will have 10 days to pay their bill or lose their water. For rental properties, the process begins with a 37-day notice to landlords and a 30-day notice to tenants, followed by additional notices as the deadline approaches.
Tenants have the ability to prevent the water from being shut off by paying the current month's bill, and landlords are legally required to deduct that amount from the tenant's monthly rent.
Those shut-off notices should be going out in the next couple of weeks.
As we've noted before, the tactic might seem harsh, but it needs to be done.
The delinquents have been sponging off of honest city homeowners who pay their sewer and refuse bills -- bills driven even higher because of their free-loading neighbors.
Also, York is in a dire financial situation. The city has passed double-digit tax increases two years in a row now and, when it announced the program in March, was already running about a $7 million deficit.
It can't afford not to go after what it's owed.
And we're glad to see them doing it early enough that it might have a positive impact on next year's budget.
Every bit helps.