Washington reduces electric rates for April

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, April 16, 2020

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City of Washington electric customers will see a significant decrease in their upcoming utility bill, after the Washington City Council unanimously approved a one-time 30% electric rate reduction earlier this week.

“The City of Washington’s administration understands that the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting all residential and business utility customers, thus this reduction is a step towards relieving the burden encountered as a result of the pandemic,” reads a press release from the City.

The city has also indefinitely suspended utility disconnections due to nonpayment. Late fees and reconnection fees have also been suspended for 60 days as of March 31, in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this month.

All told, the reductions will cost Washington Electric Utilities roughly $685,000. While this will put the municipal electric company in the red for the month of April, City Manager Jonathan Russell says it’s a cost that can be absorbed over the course of 12 months without being too much of a financial hit.

“For the month, it puts us in the red, but we look at it more comprehensively throughout the year,” Russell said. “We did put that into the analysis that we didn’t want to jeopardize any of the financial security from an operational standpoint.”

While the city will be able to absorb that cost for the time being, Russell says the decision by the council to lower the rates this month was ultimately about helping local people get by in an economically tough time.

“The council felt this was something we were in a position to do,” Russell said. “It serves several purposes — it works as a morale builder for the community and relieves financial pressures people are going through currently. It’s a sign that we’re all in this together, and it’s affecting everyone.”

For utility customers in other parts of Beaufort County, Tideland EMC and Duke Progress Energy have also taken steps to help members and customers cope with financial hardships. Both Tideland and Duke are encouraging members to continue paying what they can, but are also setting up six-month payment plans to help those who can’t pay right away.

While municipal facilities are closed to the public in Washington, in-person payments can still be made via a drop box on Second Street across from city hall. Payments can also be made with a credit/debit card online at www.washingtonnc.gov by entering one’s account number and last name, or by phone at 1-877-201-3770.