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Utility cutoffs could begin this month in Landis

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Town officials could begin utility disconnections as soon as this month for residents who don’t agree to a payment plan by Aug. 17.

The resolution, voted on by the Landis Board of Aldermen Monday, states that Landis residents who were unable to make any payments between March 31 and July 29 will receive a proposed payment plan in the mail. Finance Officer Diane Seaford said those agreements are currently being mailed to Landis residents and must be signed and submitted to town officials no later than Aug. 17.

Executive Order 142 from Gov. Roy Cooper prevented municipalities from executing utility disconnections and charging late fees or penalties for nonpayment. That order expired on July 29, but it requires municipalities to allow customers at least six months to pay off any outstanding balances accrued during the March-July time period.

The first payment will be due no later than Aug. 25, and final payments are due by Jan. 25, 2021.

Penalties and late fees will be assessed for balances that become past due after Aug. 25. Additionally, any past due account balances accrued before the executive order established in March must be paid by Aug. 25 to avoid disconnections.

Any bills past due after Aug. 25 will have a cut-off date of Sept. 15.

Seaford said the current number of customers with outstanding balances, or on the “cut-off” list, is around 800, which amounts to nearly $280,000.

Also at the meeting, in an effort to eliminate what Seaford said would be considered “bad debt,” aldermen approved a policy that makes the town’s debt setoff program more aggressive as well as write-off accounts receivable balances after five years. Debt setoff is used as a way to collect outstanding balances for accounts that are no longer active. If the customer is unable to be reached for payment, the debt will be submitted to the state and those outstanding fees will be garnished from the former customer’s tax returns.

The current total amount of write-off debt is $13,480, with $9,247 of that coming from electricity accounts. Other types of debt include garbage, water, storm water, sewer and penalty fees. Seaford said the debt setoff program hasn’t been use since 2017, and the goal is to submit within 45-60 days the total outstanding debt since 2017 to the state. Debt setoff will then be submitted monthly, she said.

“We’re hopeful to start getting that money back this year,” she said.

The policy will also continually write-off any debt amounts of $5 or less for both debit and credit balances.

Also at the meeting:

• Aldermen approved a request from Landis Interim Town Manager Leonard Barefoot to submit an application to the county with the full amount of Coronavirus Relief Funds no later than Aug. 20. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners allocated funds with a $50,000 base and additional funding based on population for each municipality, which increased Landis’ original share of $66,297 to $91,371.

Barefoot said he has contacted Kannapolis Glass and Glazing to help develop the town’s plan for the funds. The plan includes adding a walk-up pay window and drop box in the area between the two work stations on the utility payment side of Landis Town Hall, providing screening for several service areas inside Town Hall and making improvements to the outside drop box to better assist handicapped customers. The remainder of the funds will be solicited for qualified reimbursements.

• Aldermen approved a 2020-21 fiscal year billing schedule for utility payments. The billing date for utilities from July 2020 to June 2021 will be the last day of each month, with a due date of the 25th in the following month. The bank draft date for the month prior’s bill will be the 15th, with the exception of August, which has a bank draft date of Aug. 17. Prior months cut-off dates will be the 15th in the following month.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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