City goes back to pre-COVID shutoff policy


Members of the Weiser City Council and administrators discuss the decision to switch back to its pre-COVID shutoff policy. Council members, from left, Sterling Blackwell, Mike Hopkins, Layna Hafer, Larry Hogg, Alicia Fowler, and Cliff Barberis. Hafer filled in on Monday for Mayor Randy Hibberd who was feeling under the weather. Sitting in front is Weiser Public Works Director Mike Campbell and City Clerk Natasha McDaniel. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
By: 
Philip A. Janquart
Administrators have announced that the city is moving back to its pre-COVID utility services shutoff policy.
 During the pandemic, the City of Weiser eased up on its long-standing rule to discontinue services – such as electricity, water, garbage, and sewer – if left unpaid five days beyond their respective due dates, which came with reconnection and late fees.
 “We stopped doing shutoffs altogether,” City Clerk Natasha McDaniel told councilmembers during a regular city council meeting on Monday. “Then we modified that to where we were only shutting people off if they were multiple months behind. Then we modified it to where we were calling everybody before we actually did shutoffs and then we did the shutoffs.”
 Now that the Pandemic is over, the city has gone back to its original policy.
 McDaniel said that of the approximately 3,000 invoices reflecting users in two billing cycles, about 80 are consistently delinquent and that they are typically the same customers.
 “We are finding that these are the same people every single month,” she said, adding that there are programs to help those who need assistance paying their utility bills. “There are multiple programs out there to help. There are anywhere from five to seven programs at any given time that anybody, if they are having trouble paying their bill and are just having a hard time, can go out and get assistance.”
 She mentioned LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), Idaho Housing Preservation Program, The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Home Heating and Utility Assistance program, and others.
 “So, another thing we are doing to help with people knowing whether they are going to be able to get their bill paid or they need assistance is, we used to send out on the 14th and the last day of the month, we are now sending them out the first week of the month, giving customers more time to pay their bill and/or get their budget and see if they are going to need help, to go out and get assistance,” McDaniel said.
 She added that having more payment options is helping out.
 “Also with us going to Invoice Cloud, the online payment, it sends out multiple reminders that you have a bill and multiple ways to pay. You set it up on Bill Pay, Autopay, Scheduled Pay, they email you reminders, text messages, so we’re really trying to broaden the way our customers can pay their bill and giving them more time, but we are finding we need to get back to what our policy and what our ordinance states.”
 Councilwoman Layna Hafer stressed the importance of coming to the city to explore payment options.
 “We want to encourage people who are still struggling with their bills to come in because there are options to get some help for a couple months until we get out of the winter months,” she said.
 To contact the city about your utility bill, call (208) 414-1965.
 

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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