Derry Borough Municipal Authority (DBMA) customers with delinquent bills have had relief from late fees and water service shutoffs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but authority officials set an end date for the grace period.
The DBMA board voted Wednesday to reinstitute late fees on June 15, when the next round of customer payments are due.
The authority had halted the posting of late fees, shutoff notices and other delinquent account-related matters as the result of the pandemic.
That relief to customers has cut into the authority’s revenue, however.
DBMA manager Amy Forsha said as of February, 30-day delinquent accounts owed a total of $9,428. That total has grown to $17,857. For 60-day delinquent accounts, the total has grown from $5,379 in February to $12,495, Forsha said, and the total for 90-day delinquent accounts has increased from $33,735 in February to $42,507.
“Those are significant numbers,” DBMA board chairman Richard Thomas said. “We expected some things, but I wanted to see it in black and white. It’s definitely having an impact on us.”
Forsha suggested the authority could consider payment plans or waiving late fees for customers who contact the office to explain their situations and hardships from the coronavirus pandemic.
DBMA board member Daniel Chaney said the authority should differentiate between customers whose accounts had been delinquent since before the start of COVID-19 restrictions and those whose accounts fell behind during the pandemic.
“We can say ‘Well, you guys were already in jeopardy before, you can’t claim COVID (caused you to miss payments),’ but the new people, we might be able to do something for those,” Chaney suggested.
“The more we interface with our delinquency customers, we can help sort them out a little bit and guide them,” Thomas said. “And hopefully their moral compass will let them pay their water bill. I know it’s ubiquitous, but we all have to do it.”
The authority office has been closed for walk-in business since March 16 because of the pandemic. Customers may call the office from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.
Authority officials said cash or check payments can still be made in person at Ameriserv Bank (payments can be placed in the drop box to the left of the main entrance) or online via the customer portal (https://derryboro.authoritypay.com). As part of the restrictions, the authority said its technicians will be limiting house visits to emergency issues only.
In other business, the DBMA board approved:
- For Forsha to contact a customer who requested relief on a high water bill after a hot water tank in a vacant home burst;
- A resolution proclaiming National Public Works Week, May 17-23;
- Making the authority’s annual donation of $1,000 to the Derry Community Pool.