COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The City of Columbia has delayed turning off utilities for customers who are behind on their bills.
Dave Sorrell, director of city utilities, talked about how many people were behind on payments, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The department of utilities sent out notices around Sept. 21 to customers who were behind on payments to warn them their utilities may be shut off on or after Oct 1. They had about 7,800 delinquent accounts at the time that totaled about $4.2 million.
"With that notification that disconnects. may start to occur, then a lot of people started to take care of their bills," Sorrell said.
The number of delinquent accounts on Sunday was at 5,196, lowering delinquent funds to around $1.6 million.
Sorrell explained customers get several warnings before their utilities are shut off if they are behind on payments.
"Our pending disconnect number went from 5,800 on September 28 down to 2,538 this afternoon," Sorrell said.
The department did not begin disconnecting people on Monday as it had warned customers it would. Sorrell said the foot traffic of people trying to pay bills was pretty much at the department's limit, and disconnects would only add to that.
"If we're getting that many customers that are addressing their bills or making payment arrangements, I personally believe we need to just keep holding off on disconnects and see how this continues to flow," Sorrell said.
City Manager John Glascock said the city cannot forgo paying all utility bills because it is responsible for upkeep.
"That's what we were doing, we were forgoing all of it for six months which is why we have to start it back up and we owe that to the bond covenants that we take care of," Glascock said.
The utilities department will continue to work with everyone who requests to set up payments on their bills. It typically asks customers to pay 25% of their bill and then set up payments to cover the rest over several months, depending on the amount.