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ML council to vote on shutting off water, sewer to delinquent customers

by EMILY THORNTON
Assistant Managing Editor | October 12, 2021 1:05 AM

Water and sewer shut-off dates will begin in November for more than 600 residential customers in Moses Lake with delinquent balances totaling more than $300,000 if the city adopts a resolution Tuesday.

The Moses Lake City Council will vote on a resolution to continue suspension of utility shut offs and waivers of delinquent fee assessments through Oct. 31, as well as resume monthly shut-offs and delinquent fee assessments in November.

A resolution was first presented to council members March 24, 2020, after Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation calling for water providers in the state to stop disconnection of water service due to nonpayment and to waive late payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A series of proclamations was issued by Inslee, continuing the request, until he provided an end date for the moratorium, Sept. 30, 2021.

Moses Lake developed the COVID-19 Utility Relief Program Sept. 9, 2020, for customers to have long-term payment plans and access CARES Act funds to help with financial hardship from the pandemic, according to council meeting packet information.

As of Wednesday, there were 77 applications for grant funds and/or payment arrangements, and the city was paying less than $10,000 in delinquent charges with grant money, with 30 applications pending review. The city said it could lose about $15,000 in late fees in the water/wastewater fund, documents stated.

There are more than 600 delinquent residential water/sewer accounts, with more than $300,000 in delinquent balances, documents stated.

“Despite our continued efforts over the past twelve months, encouraging customers to contact the utility department for payment arrangements and/or financial assistance, we did not receive the response we’d hoped for,” documents stated. “We have seen a sharp increase in customer calls regarding how to apply for assistance since the moratorium expiration date and we expect a similar increase in applications received.”

The city’s plans include shut off dates for the 600 delinquent customers in November. Final notice of termination is to be sent on October utility bills, followed by phone and/or door notifications with turn off dates and times. The city plans to increase shut of dates to twice weekly in November to handle the volume of accounts and continuing until it can resume a “manageable amount,” resuming once weekly.

Call notifications are scheduled for the Friday before shut off dates, starting Oct. 29, giving time for customers to apply for help or make a payment. Shut off dates are scheduled for Nov. 2, 3, 16, 17, 30 and Dec. 1.