By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Sept. 9 — As some of the economic pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic begins to subside, all three towns in Page County are getting back to business as usual with their water customers.
After suspending cutoffs and waiving late fees in March, April and May, water customers began to see stricter enforcement of timely payments over the course of the summer.
After losing about $15,000 in revenue from not enforcing 204 late fees in June, the Town of Shenandoah started disconnecting delinquent customers in July and resumed levying late fees in August.
“As of today, these losses in revenue cannot be reimbursed by the CARES Act funds,” Town Manager Juanita Roudabush said in late August. “It definitely is having a negative impact on our already tight budgets for current and upcoming expenses.”
At the onset of the pandemic, Shenandoah halted disconnects for water service in March and started waiving late fees beginning in April.
“Prior to disconnects and late fees resuming, each customer was provided a notice every month showing the amount they owed and then each customer was provided a special notice with the exact date of when penalty would be added and when disconnections would resume,” Roudabush said.
The town manager said Shenandoah currently has about $8,000 in unpaid water bills spread among 53 delinquent accounts.
“Some of these people have payment agreements,” Roudabush said. “No one is currently cut off…”
The Town of Stanley estimates about $15,000 in losses from unpaid water bills since late fees and cut-offs halted in March, according to Treasurer Leon Stout. Stanley began imposing both again in July.
“We did waive the cut-off fees in July as a courtesy because we had not cuts-off for such an extended period of time,” Stout stated in a reply to PVN earlier this week.
At its height, Stanley had 130 delinquent accounts. Today, Stout says there are between 80 and 90. He also stated that shut-offs are “about normal” at 15 to 20 per month.
The Town of Luray also suspended cutoffs for delinquent water bill payments beginning in March. Luray resumed cut-offs in June with no reconnection fees, according to Town Manager Steve Burke.
Burke stated last week that “about 10 percent of our accounts” were “delinquent during the worst economic impact of COVID-19”; however, he added that, “All of our customers [are] up to date with their payments or have established a payment plan.”
Burke did not provide an estimated revenue loss for the town due to the delinquent water payments.
“The Town utility revenues are stable,” Burke stated, “and we continue to work with customers experiencing difficulty making payments.”