Belhaven plans to continue payment policy to customers with outstanding utility balances
Published 2:30 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021
The Town of Belhaven plans to extend their policy of adjusted utility payments for customers with outstanding balances.
In March 2020, Governor Cooper signed an executive order in response to the hardships faced by individuals due to the global pandemic. This order prohibited the disconnection of service to customers unable to pay their utility bills due to the pandemic.
“The governor’s executive orders expired on Jan. 29 which means that the town is now allowed to disconnect service if bills are not paid in full. We have 34 active customers with balances over $1,000 and that was prior to and after COVID for a total of $64,000,” said Mimi van Nortwick, the finance director for the Town of Belhaven. “We’re prohibited by law to excuse utility bills or penalties. We are required to charge them because they have used the services and we need to collect.”
Several programs, such as the HOPE and LEAP program supported individuals in paying their bill if a need was displayed. While these organizations promised to pay existing balances, the customer was responsible for any balance acquired after these programs assisted them.
“In Oct. 2020 to avoid disconnection, we began this policy. They have to pay the bill that was due on the 15 of the month plus any penalties assessed right after that,” said van Nortwick.
The penalty for having an outstanding utility balance is an additional 5 percent of said balance added to their bill.
“If there was a prior balance, we’ll take 25% of their average 12 month bill and all of that has to be due by the 5th of the month. If they do not meet that obligation, we will discontinue their service,” said van Nortwick.
With this service in place, citizens of Belhaven with outstanding balances have been able to reduce their balance over time. This allows their utilities to stay connected while working to decrease the money still owed to the town.
“(Since) we started this in October, we’ve been very successful. Folks have been turned off but they have paid,” said van Nortwick.
The Board of Aldermen approved the continuation of this payment policy. For more information about this payment policy, contact the Town of Belhaven at (252)943-3055.