By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – Village residents having trouble paying their utility bills in full because of serious financial stress resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the loss of a job or a layoff, have the option of paying in installments, Hobart Administrator Aaron Kramer informed the village board at its Tuesday, May 5, meeting.
“There’s been a slight uptick in utility bills going in the late column, so we want to be proactive,” he said.
Kramer said the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an emergency order March 24 to make changes on how utility accounts are to be handled during the pandemic.
“We will not be disconnecting any customers during this pandemic unless it is to prevent a dangerous condition,” he said.
For utility customers who have overdue bills, Kramer said the village cannot and will not be assessing late charges and interest with that practice remaining into effect until the last day of the public health emergency, as determined by the PSC.
“If you can’t pay it all, you can pay portions,” he said. “Pay as much as you can. Set up a payment program. We cannot legally expunge utility bills. We can’t say we’re taking 20 percent off. It is what it is.”
Kramer said setting up a deferred payment plan or paying a portion of a utility bill will prevent the outstanding balance from becoming a much larger problem in the future.
Village hall visits discouraged
Kramer said Hobart residents are still being asked to refrain from visiting village hall.
He said they should instead use the village’s website to contact the office or to pay bills, fees and court penalties.
For those who need to visit the office, Kramer said the village is asking them wear a mask, observe social distancing guidelines and help keep the staff and other visitors safe and healthy.
“We are also requesting that visitors set up a time to meet with staff in the building, and avoid just stopping in, to allow us to maintain the minimal number of people in the village office to maintain safe social distancing,” he said.
Kramer said wearing masks by village staff members is not mandatory at this point, though that is being encouraged with supplies available for them.
“I did ask some staff members (May 5), so that we prevent people from just wandering into offices and gabbing, keep doors closed to reduce that social contact,” he said.