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Facing $400,000 in unpaid utilities, Waynesboro reinstates disconnections as last resort

Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 11:18 PM EST
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WAYNESBORO, Va. (WVIR) - Monday night, Waynesboro City Council reinstated the city’s ability to cut off utilities for residents who haven’t paid their bills, but only as a last resort.

The vote was unanimous, but the City insists it wants to work with its citizens who’ve experienced hardship due to the pandemic.

In November, Governor Northam enacted a bill to temporarily postpone utility disconnections for residents during the COVID-19 emergency.

“We would do everything that we could to prevent cutting somebody off if their household is suffering some kind of financial hardship due to the virus,” stated Deputy City Manager for the City of Waynesboro Jim Shaw.

“That’s what this was about -- this was saying, hey we shouldn’t be cutting people off in the midst of a pandemic if they cannot pay a bill because of that situation,” stated Waynesboro City Councilman Dr. Sam Hostetter.

But, right now, customers owe more than $400,000 for water and sewer. That’s 4% of the annual budget. City Council can seek relief from the Governor’s moratorium if the amount owed is over 1%.

“Running the utility disconnections is certainly, it’s time-consuming for the city. It’s stressful for both our city staff and certainly for our customers. It’s not something that we want to do,” stated Shaw.

He adds that so much money owed could undermine the city’s financial stability. “And as well can create a utility bill for a customer that is growing larger and larger.”

“We need to be able to have the tools to help other people get back on target with paying their bills as well,” said Hostetter.

The City has several resources to help households that are struggling during the pandemic, plus a repayment plan option to avoid cut-offs.

“If you get a late notice, you’re also getting information about these programs,” said Shaw.

City staff are expected to report back to see if this initiative helps get people caught up.

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