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City offers payment plans for delinquent water bills

With the expiration of an executive order that barred utililty cutoffs and late payments for unpaid accounts, the Hendersonville Water & Sewer Department is reminding customers who are delinquent in their payments to contact customer service, which will work with them to set up a payment plan.  The executive order ended at 11:59 a.m. Wednesday.

“From the beginning, the City of Hendersonville has been working with our customers to ease financial burdens during a time that places strain on residents and businesses, as well as the local governments who serve them,” City Manager John Connet said. “Even before the Governor implemented his initial order concerning utilities, we had already taken action to suspend water service disconnects and late payments to assist customers experiencing hardships due to covid-19.”

Connet explained that the City Council approved measures that exceed the requirements in the Gov. Roy Cooper’s order by giving water customers an extended window of opportunity to repay the cost of utilities they have used over the past few months.

“Customers who are delinquent on their bill will have 60 days to set up a payment plan with our customer service team,” Connet said. “The state has set the default repayment plan to a six-month term, however, City Council approved a policy that extends the repayment window to a twelve-month period.”

Customer service representatives will be working to contact everyone who is delinquent on their bill during the 60 days following the expiration of the order, however, customers are encouraged to call (828) 697-3052 or visit the city's website to set up their payment plan.

Details of the City’s covid-19 payment plan include:
• Customers (residential and commercial) with a delinquent balance as of 60 days after the expiration of EO 142 will be given up to twelve months to repay any outstanding balance, including balances due prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Customers will have until 60 days after the expiration of the EO 142 to set up a payment plan. Any delinquent accounts not on a payment plan after 60 days of EO 142’s expiration will be subject to late fees and disconnection of service.
• Payment plans will remain in effect as long as customers stay current with their repayment and current monthly bills.
• Customers that miss a payment will be given until the next billing cycle due date to pay their past due amount and the current bill to avoid disconnection, but they will be subject to late fees.

“We want to give customers advanced notice of the repayment requirements and how they can work with our team to set up a plan,” said Finance Director John Buchanan. “The city has made an effort to go beyond what the state has mandated in terms of working with our customers to get them caught up.”

He explained that all payment plan participants would have a maximum of twelve months to pay their outstanding balance, but there is also the opportunity to pay down the balance at a faster rate if a customer has the ability.

The customer service team will be sending out letters and a payment plan application to everyone with a delinquent balance. Those customers can also expect to receive communication via the City’s notification system using the contact information included on their billing account.

Customers will be able to complete their payment plan application online or in person at the Customer Service window at City Hall at 160 Sixth Avenue East. The public is asked to wear a mask and wait six feet apart when visiting the payment window.

Customer Service may also be reached at (828) 697-3052 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During this time there may be limited staff scheduled due to covid-19 precautions. Callers are asked to be patient and leave a message if they are on the line during periods of peak call volume.