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Heggins asks city to stop disconnecting water service during outbreak

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Following the lead of other North Carolina municipalities, Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins has requested the city to restore water services to all residents and suspend cutoffs during the ongoing coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak.

Mayor Karen Alexander says Finance Director Shannon Moore and Salisbury-Rowan Utilities Director Jim Behmer will present information about what this would mean for the city service at today’s city council meeting — 6 p.m. in City Hall, 217 S. Main St. Charlotte, Durham, Winston-Salem and Raleigh announced last week they would not disrupt water services.

The City of Concord joined the list on Monday. In a news release, the city said it “will not disconnect any customer’s service for non-payment in order to give customers experiencing financial hardship extra time to make payments.”

Heggins said municipalities not disrupting water services is the humane thing to do. Hand washing is a basic action that has been encouraged by health officials and, she said, continuing to provide water service will keep citizens safe.

Heggins added the city can provide resources like internet access as well, particularly for students who do not have it. Starting Monday, Rowan-Salisbury Schools and public schools across the state closed for at least two weeks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The city is its leasing broadband service to Hotwire Communication. Alexander said the city can’t mandate Hotwire provide internet services, but on Monday Jonathan Bullock, vice president of corporate development and government for Hotwire, announced some efforts to help families that are homebound because of COVID-19.

He said Hotwire is not adding late fees or suspending service to residential and small business customers for internet or phone. Bullock added Hotwire will be giving at least two months of free internet to new customers who have students in their home or who are low income.

Those with K-12 students will have to provide the name of school, teachers and grade level. For college students, a photo copy of a student ID is required. 

New customers must sign up by April 16. After 60 days, customers will be charged standard pricing for service, unless qualified for the low-income rate. Installation fees will be waived for all qualifying customers.

“I believe this will help bridge the digital divide during the crisis and alleviate some of the education and information gaps in your community,” Bullock wrote in his announcement.

Bullock said those in need of service should call Salisbury team members — Randy Hyde at 704-244-1830 or Todd Orrell at 704-244-6547. 

Alexander said the city’s goal is the citizens to be safe and that she is glad people are preparing for COVID-19.

“We are fortunate we don’t have a case today,” Alexander said in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

She said the city want to emphasize the stance that people should not to panic but be prepared for the likelihood that the county will get one or more cases of COVID-19.

City buildings are being cleaned more often. City council meeting will be limited to staff presenting on an agenda item. Alexander said they are recommending people email questions or comments to any of the council members and not attend the meeting unless necessary.

The city does have to keep going, she said.

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