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Utility providers revert back to cut off procedures

Residents of Pearl River County will want to go back to ensuring their bills are paid on time to prevent disconnection of utility services.

On March 15 the Mississippi Public Service Commission decided to temporarily suspend disconnections of all water, sewer, electricity and gas services for 60 days.

The action was in response to the state of emergency declared by Gov. Tate Reeves on March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s order preventing service providers from disconnecting utilities for nonpayment expired earlier this month.

Judy Patch of Nicholson Water & Sewer Association said the company is now operating under normal procedures.

“This morning we cut off people because they didn’t pay their bill,” Patch said on Wednesday.

Pearl River County resident Carol Pequeno said Nicholson Water cut off her services on Wednesday and she was unable to wash her hands at home. She was concerned because she recently underwent a liver transplant. She said she was not behind on payments and owed only $50.

“If I get the coronavirus, it’s because of the water company,” Pequeno said.

Pequeno said she had to pay $107 on Wednesday to get her water turned back on because there was a reconnect fee.

“Our customers know what our policies and procedures are,” Patch said. “I do feel sorry for people.”

Patch said the bill is mailed on the last day of the month and is due by the 14th. There will be a late fee if payment isn’t received by the 24th. At that point, services will be disconnected.

“We are a membership-owned association,” Patch said.

Patch said the association relies on customers paying their bills.

Cliff Diamond, executive director of the Pearl River County Utility Authority said the company is not disconnecting utilities at this time, but will be resuming cutoffs in June.

“We did not cut off [in April and May], but we are planning to resume cutoffs in early June,” Diamond said. “We sent a warning letter to account holders on May 13, but overall, our collections have been fairly normal, so we don’t expect an unusual number of cutoffs in June.”

Poplarville City Clerk Jane O’Neal said the city has reverted back to its current written policy regarding disconnections.

The policy states that payment is due on the 15th day of each month. Accounts become delinquent after 45 days or 30 days after the due date of the bill. Water will be turned off between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. for delinquent accounts. Once water is turned off, it cannot be turned on until the account is paid in full plus a reconnect fee according to the written policy.