Citizen input helps change county policy

Published 4:11 pm Monday, February 23, 2009

WINTON – A simple plea by a local citizen fell on friendly ears here Monday night.

During the Hertford County Board of Commissioners meeting, Rev. William Reid addressed his concerns with an existing county ordinance dealing with late fees assessed to water bills.

Rev. Reid told the commissioners that he was charged a $10 late fee for missing the deadline on his December water bill payment. However, as he pointed out, the bill’s due date (Dec. 20) fell on a Saturday, meaning the county offices were closed.

“I paid the bill on Monday, Dec. 22, which was the next business day,” Rev. Reid said. “When I received my January bill, there were two, $5 late payment charges from the December bill.”

Rev Reid explained that he receives two monthly water bills, one for his residence and another for his workshop.

What Rev. Reid wanted to know was could the county extend water bill payments to the next business day if the payment date fell on a weekend or a holiday.

“We need to lean to the side of the citizens on this,” Commissioner Curtis Freeman said. “I like his idea; it’s the right thing to do.”

Freeman added that the town of Ahoskie has a “grace period” if their water payment due date falls on a weekend or a holiday.

Hertford County Water Department Supervisor Melvin Nichols was asked his opinion of the issue. He responded by saying that a majority of citizens tend to wait until the last minute to pay their bills in order to beat the late payment fee (a $5 charge). Nichols said in January alone, 802 water customers paid their bills on the due date.

Freeman made a motion that tweaks the county water bill payment policy to say that if the bill’s due date falls on a day in which the county offices were closed for any reason, then the bill can be paid the next business day without a late fee. His motion also applies to those who haven’t paid their bill by the traditional “service cut-off” date (five days after the due date).

The motion passed without objection. With that, the commissioners convened as the Board of Supervisors of the county’s Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts and approved the same motion.

Afterwards, county attorney Chuck Revelle reminded all rural water customers that their monthly payments are still due by the date on the back of the bill (each district has different due dates). Additionally, the cut-off dates remain at five days after the payment date in both water districts. The only time those dates can change are when the county offices are closed, and then the payments are due on the next business day.

Revelle also pointed out that the new policy does not affect any past bills where a $5 late charge or $25 re-connect fee was assessed.