Non-payments of water bills doubled in April in Granite Shoals, and Assistant City Manager Peggy Smith believes it’s because many residents have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, council members authorized City Manager Jeff Looney to develop and administer guidelines for verifying residents’ eligibility to have utility administrative fees waived through June if they have been affected by the pandemic.
The council approved this during its May 5 meeting.
What that means, Looney said, is city staff wants to hear from residents on why they are unable to pay before the due date, which is the 10th of each month.
“If it’s COVID-19-related, and you lost your job and it directly affects you in that way, we’ll do what we can to help,” he said.
How City Hall helps comes down to where each resident is financially, Looney added. That means some might be able to make a partial payment, while others aren’t able to make a payment at all.
He said residents should contact City Hall at 830-598-2424 to speak to a staff member before the 10th of each month and be prepared to produce paperwork that explains the financial hardship, such as unemployment, medical bills, or other records.
“Documentation is what we really need to get,” Looney said.
City staff also will examine payment history, he added.
He noted late fee percentages begin accumulating after the 10th if a payment isn’t made. Water disconnection happens on the 20th. To have water service restored, residents must pay the balance in full, late fees, and reconnection fee, which is $40.
The council was given a chart that showed 62 accounts with late fees and disconnect fees totaling $6,800 for April 2020.
In the past, Looney has sat down with residents to show them that paying on time, if they can, saves them money throughout the year, he said.
In addition, residents who are unable to pay their bill each month should contact City Hall and talk to staff every 30 days and before the 10th.
“They need to maintain contact with us,” Looney said. “If you call us before something is due, we can help you. If you call us after something is due, it makes it really hard to help. We prefer people do that because it makes it easier for us to justify.”
Looney noted that city staff and council members understand that COVID-19 has put a burden on many residents and all want to do what they can to be neighborly.
“We want people to know that city staff and the council care,” he said. “We want to let them know we want to help.”