The city of Terrell ended its moratorium on water disconnections on Sept. 30, one day before the Public Utility Commission (PUC) also began allowing disconnections of electrical service.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic and at the behest of the PUC, the city of Terrell in March stopped cutting off water service to customers who had fallen behind on their bills.
In the following months, however, the city did inform customers about their delinquent balances, telling them they would have to pay off those balances at some point, assistant City Engineer Mike Mikeska told the council Tuesday night. The city eventually targeted the end of September for cutoffs.
Mikeska stressed that the city remains willing to work with any customer who is behind on their water bill as long as they contacted the city. The city, he said, was willing to extend to customers a payment plan spread out over 12 months on delinquent balances.
“All they have to do is call us, and then we’ll stretch it out for up to 12 months for the past due amount,” Mikeska said.
Many customers are working with the city, and “they were very appreciative of the extensions,” he said.
Still, on Sept. 30, the city disconnected water to 160 customers. As of Tuesday evening, the number of disconnected households stood at 30, according to Mikeska. A total of 211 customers were on payment plans.
On Sept. 29, the city was owed $191,500 in outstanding balances. By Tuesday, the amount had shrunk to $120,865. According to Mikeska, that total is about twice what the city normally is owed in unpaid balances.
“We feel for those having hardships,” Mayor Rick Carmona said. “We tried everything within reason to help those who reached out for help.”
Meanwhile, the PUC announced that electricity disconnections for non-payment could resume Oct. 1.
“As our economy shows signs of rebounding and social services increasingly fill the gaps, it’s time to close this chapter and move forward,” said PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. “The entities under our purview worked hard to follow our guidance for the duration of the Electricity Relief Program and I’m confident the competitive energy marketplace will continue benefiting Texans.”