Phased Lifting of Moratorium on Shutoffs
Customers with past due balances will be eligible to sign up for a payment plan
October 27, 2020 (Charleroi, PA) – During its business meeting today, the Authority of the Borough of Charleroi’s Board of Directors voted to begin a phased lifting of the moratorium on termination of water services, beginning December 1, 2020. The decision comes three weeks after the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission issued an order also ending its global moratorium on utility shutoffs.
“As we stated at the beginning of the pandemic, the health, safety, and welfare of our customers is always our number one priority,” Authority General Manager Chuck Cardinale stated. “However, as recently recognized by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, moving from an absolute moratorium to a less restrictive regulation allows the Authority to continue to recognize the ongoing dangers of the pandemic while also putting into place solutions for our customers to pay down their delinquent bills.”
Under a resolution enacted by the Board on Tuesday, customers who have acquired delinquent invoices and balances during 2020 will be eligible to apply for a payment plan specially designed to alleviate the issues faced by both customers and the Authority during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Under the payment plan, customers with past due balances who opt into the payment plan will be required to pay a minimum of $50 in addition to their regular, monthly invoice. Customers will be able to be on the payment plan for up to ten months. At the conclusion of the ten months, if a customer still has a past due balance remaining, that balance will become due with the customer’s next bill.
“The Authority knows that many of our customers have had economic and financial troubles during these unprecedented times,” Authority Board Chair Walter Hopkins said. “At the same time, the Authority has now accrued over $250,000 in past due balances, and we must be able to recoup the majority of those balances without having a negative financial impact on the entire customer base.”
Cardinale continued, “By implementing these less restrictive measures, the Authority is able to offer solutions to our customers who may still be experiencing the financial burdens brought on by the pandemic, while at the same time staving off unnecessary long-term effects for the water and sewer systems as a whole.”
Authority solicitor Todd Pappasergi further explained that the COVID-19 payment plan is a one-time measure, and must be followed by those customers that opt into it. Customers on the payment plan will be required to enter into an agreement with the Authority to abide by the payment plan terms. Customers who fail to follow the terms will be subject to termination of water services. Pappasergi credited the Authority Board and management for thinking creatively to arrive at a solution to help all involved. “This was a team effort by all involved to strike a good balance between the economic realities of the pandemic while ensuring continued and uninterrupted operations of the Authority.”
Customers with past due balances will have until Monday, February 1, 2021 to apply for the payment plan. Customers who opt-in should see the first $50 minimum payment plan payment on their February invoices. Customers with past due balances who do not opt in will see the entirety of their balance due on the February invoice.
Pappasergi further reminded customers in Donora and Monessen that the Authority processes shut-off requests for delinquent Mon Valley Sewage Authority customers. “The Authority cannot make payment plans for those customers. If we receive a shut-off request from Mon Valley Sewage after December 1, 2020, we will be required to honor that request unless Mon Valley Sewage tells us otherwise.” Pappasergi advised Mon Valley Sewage customers to contact MVSA directly for payment questions.
Further information about the COVID-19 Payment Plan will be contained in customers’ December bills. Applications for the payment plan will be available on the Authority’s website, abcwater.net, beginning November 2.
In other action by the Authority Board today, the Authority will be implementing new procedures for properties that are leased. Beginning January 1, 2021, any request for new service or request to turn back on service that was terminated will have to be completed by the property owner or landlord. The water contract and bill will be required to be in the property owner or landlord’s name.
“We have seen an unfortunate increase in tenants leaving rental properties with large, outstanding balances with the Authority,” Cardinale explained. “Under state law, if the landlord then finds a new tenant for the property, the Authority is not permitted to terminate the water service for the delinquent bill.”
Under the new regulation, the account will be in the property owner’s name only, giving the Authority better ability to collect on any delinquent bills. “Additionally,” Cardinale stated, “this gives landlords the ability to monitor water usage at their properties on a monthly basis, in order to detect any plumbing issues that may occurring at these properties.”
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