By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Hoke County’s Utilities Department is now offering payment arrangements for county water and sewer customers who got behind on their bills over the last months.
As of October 1, county customers are responsible for paying their current bill. Disconnections for unpaid county utilities accounts are set to start again beginning November 14.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued executive orders 124 and 142 in March and May, stopping utility companies from shutting off utilities services for a period of time. The orders additionally required public utility companies to set up payment arrangement plans for people who got behind on their bills. The orders were meant to help people who lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many government-ordered closures that affected many companies and businesses.
Although the county halted disconnections over the last months, the bills continued to accrue and must be paid. The payment plan is a way customers can get caught up, county Utilities Director Hilton Villines explained.
When customers who are behind on their payments receive their monthly billing statement with the past due amount, they should contact the Hoke County Utility Department at 910-875-6704 to set up the payment arrangement.
Any past due amounts must be put on a payment arrangement by November 13, 2020. Penalties and late fees will be applied beginning November 1, according to the county.
The department is working to notify customers about the payment arrangement and get them set up with an arrangement if necessary, Villines said. The director didn’t specify how many county utilities accounts are behind on payments, but said it’s about the same amount that the department usually sees.
Raeford water bills •
The city of Raeford is also offering payment plans for its water customers who may have gotten behind during the last six months. However, not many accounts needed to sign up for the plan, according to Assistant City Manager Betty Smith.
The city only had about 21 households that got behind on payments and needed to sign up for the payment plan option. About half of them have already gotten caught up. The remaining 10 or so accounts are making payments spread out over six months, along with the regular monthly water bill payment.
Some customers did not initially understand that although the governor suspended utilities disconnections, the bills still accrued and had to be paid, officials said. Some people who were behind on payments were able to pay off the balance and didn’t need to use the payment plan.
For information on the payment plan or additional questions about city of Raeford water bills, call city hall at 875-8161.