Water cut-off date changed

Published 4:30 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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AHOSKIE – Upon further review, the Town of Ahoskie is changing the day that its water customers will have their service cut off for non-payment.

Currently, that cut-off date is the 26th of the month. At a special called meeting on Tuesday morning of this week, the Ahoskie Town Council voted unanimously to change that date to the 24th of the month. That date was the recommendation of town staff.

Prior to last year’s adoption of the town’s current year (FY 2023-24) operating budget, the cut-off date for non-payment of water bills was the 21st of the month. Council members changed that effective July 1, 2023, moving the cut-off date to the 26th while also splitting up the $65 late payment fee into two smaller fees. The current late payment fees are $20 if the bill is not paid by the 17th of the month followed by a $45 charge if the bill isn’t paid by the 24th of the month.

The water bills are due by the 15th of the month, which remains unchanged.

“Staff is asking for the cut off date to be moved to an earlier date because it is leading to issues when we are doing end of month billing. Our billing processes are falling further and further behind,” stated interim Town Manager Jennifer Bracy.

Ahoskie Finance Officer Patricia Bradley provided a chart showing that moving the water cut off date from the 21st to the 26th did not make a lot of difference in the number of water customers who pay their bills late.

“They’re still coming in late,” she said. “With billing, the later (cut off) date now interferes with that process. We can’t work efficiently with that later date.”

Bradley added that because the monthly billing process is done basically at the same time the late-paying customers are coming in to pay their current bills in order to avoid having their water service cut off, the newly prepared bills do not reflect those late payments.

“So, basically, they are receiving a bill that doesn’t show an accurate amount,” she noted. “It shows the current amount plus a past due amount, when actually the past due amount has been paid. That leads to us answering phone calls and spending time explaining to them that all they owe is the current balance.

“Giving us an extra day or two will help tremendously with the billing process,” Bradley added.

“Ideally, staff would like to return the 21st of the month as the water cut off day,” Bracy said. “However, when the town posted its new payment policy effective July 1, 2023, it states that the $45 fee would not be added until the 24th day of the month.

“If you agree, we could move the water cut off date back to the 24th of the month and we can see how it goes using that date instead of the 26th of the month,” Bracy suggested, adding that there are no issues with the way the fees are scheduled, it’s the water cut off date that is problematic.

On a motion from Councilman David Hunt and a second from Councilman Charles Simmons, the change was approved by a 4-0 vote.

Councilman Charles Reynolds was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The new cut-off date is effective in April (with the March billing cycle).

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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