Covington workers cut off utilities for more than 300 customers Thursday, a normal procedure for past due bills, but some customers were caught off guard because the city no longer uses hang tags.
The Covington City Council voted last summer to do away with the bright yellow hang tags, which not only cost city employees time but also necessitated a $15 additional fee to recoup costs from customers – a double penalty for late-paying residents.
This pay period was the first time hang tags were not used. Instead, the city included a notice on the top of the next utility bill clearly identifying the cutoff date.
Finance Director Leigh Anne Knight said the original bills were due Dec. 30. The notice of late payment and potential cutoff was included on the top of the next bills mailed out Jan. 5.
Though some customers complained about a lack of notice, Knight said the city gives customers 20 days to pay a bill, plus a 15-day grace period after the due date before cutting off utilities.
“This was no different from any other cutoff day, except…they didn’t get that extra piece of paper stuck on their door,” Knight said.
As always happens after utilities are cut off, many customers came into City Hall throughout the day to pay their bills. Once a payment is made, the city tries to turn on utilities as soon as possible, but its official policy is to get utilities turned back on within 24 hours.
The city charges a $30 fee to reconnect utilities.
Any customer who knows they will be late making a payment is encouraged to contact the city as soon as possible before the due and cutoff dates. The city can work out payment plans with customers; however, once a bill is well past due it may be too late. In addition, customers who repeatedly miss payments may not be eligible for a payment plan.
The city has four separate billing cycles for utility bills, which means most city residents have yet to experience a billing cycle with no hang tag policy in place.
The city provides electricity, gas, water, sewer and solid waste services, and its service area extends beyond the Covington city limits.