Elizabeth City to defy governor’s order, resume utility disconnections for non-payment

[photo courtesy City of Elizabeth City]

Facing mounting financial pressure on its electric and water utilities, Elizabeth City will resume disconnections of residential customers for non-payment in defiance of executive orders issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

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.

Like many communities, the City of Elizabeth City has been adversely affected by Executive Orders #124 and 142.

It should be noted that the Elizabeth City Council took action prior to Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 124 to suspend cut-offs and not charge late penalties for a period of 60 days. This action was done after a review of the City’s financial condition at that time.

The extension of EO 124 by EO 142 has caused the City undue hardship. Therefore, the City followed the provision included in EO 142 to request a waiver.

On June 15, 2020, the waiver was completed by the City and forwarded to Attorney General Stein. The Attorney General has still not granted our justifiable waiver. The Elizabeth City Council can no longer wait on Governor Cooper or AG Stein to grant the waiver.

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.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.

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