Updated: Elizabeth City granted waiver to resume utility disconnections for non-payment

[photo courtesy City of Elizabeth City]

Updated, Tuesday 7 p.m.: Facing mounting financial pressure on its electric and water utilities, Elizabeth City will resume disconnections of residential customers for non-payment starting in August.

Saying they waited as long as they could after requesting a waiver by state Attorney General Josh Stein, city officials said they begin moving forward with collecting late fees and then cutting service if customers don’t pay starting with July bills despite the executive orders issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Hours after announcing the decision, the city was informed by Stein’s office that the waiver had been granted.

City Manager Rich Olson said earlier this month the city-owned utilities could run out of money to purchase power by this fall if they were unable to collect on the unpaid bills.

The Daily Advance reported Mayor Bettie Parker told the state Attorney’s General’s Office in a request for a waiver from the orders that customers would face an average increase of $48 a month on their electrical bills for the power company to stay solvent.

Olson released a statement on Tuesday, detailing the decision by the City Council and steps customers behind on their bills will have to follow to prevent their power or water from being cut-off.

Beginning Wednesday, the City will start sending out bills and expect our residential customers to begin paying them under the following terms and conditions. It should be noted that this cause of action was included in our waiver request.

All billings for July are due on their normal, set dates. COVID agreements will be established for any billings due between March 23, 2020 and June 30, 2020 once the July payment is satisfied.

A customer may be pardoned from paying their July billing upfront and still set up a COVID agreement if they can show that they are A) not employed and unable to receive unemployment or B) either they or an immediate family member has contracted the coronavirus. This must be proven under penalty of perjury, as is in line with the Governor’s orders.

There are roughly 2,200 accounts that are at least 60 days in arrears; many of these are up to 90 days past due now.

Any outstanding hardship agreements that were in effect prior to April 1st will resume as normal as of July 1st, 2020. At this time, there are only about 220 active hardship agreements. Staff will work with customers who need a COVID agreement and already have a hardship agreement to make sure the combination of the two is still under $100.

All COVID agreements will be established at $100 or less, even if this results in the agreement extending beyond the six months required by the Governor.

The State of North Carolina will have crisis funds available through the Department of Social Services beginning July 1st. As of the last report, Pasquotank County will be receiving about $170,000 in funding.

 The Griffin Street satellite location will be open on an appointment-only basis for customers to establish agreements to allow for the safety of both our customers and staff.

 Customers may call our Customer Service Office for appointments; they may also submit requests for appointments online via a form that you can view HERE.

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