After nearly two years of letting it go, the Albemarle County Service Authority will start disconnecting customers who have not paid their water and sewer bills beginning in April.
On Thursday, the service authority Board of Directors voted to lift its moratorium on water disconnections for non-payment, which had been in place since near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Beginning in March, the ACSA will begin an outreach program to customers that remain in arrears, and will also notify them of available additional programs and an opportunity to establish a payment plan if needed.
“Even though they’ve lifted the moratorium, it’s quite honestly more of us being in a position to start sending late notices out to people to say that they could be subject to disconnection and we need to work out a payment plan,” said ACSA Executive Director Gary O’Connell in an interview.
Approximately 500 customers had unpaid service authority bills during the pandemic, he said, which is less than 2.5% of the service authority’s customers. At one point, total arrears had reached more than $400,000.
The service authority has received federal and state grant money totaling $375,000 to apply to accounts that were deemed eligible.
Most recently, the ACSA was awarded $195,358.96 through the American Recovery Plan Act to directly assist residential customers. That funding was used starting in January to assist 404 individual customers.
Customers who mostly recently received assistance were sent letters in January noting how much money was applied to their account, and it noted that they are still responsible for the remaining balance.
Many people wait to make a payment until the final cutoff notice is sent, O’Connell said, and currently, the average balance is $75.
“There are some big accounts that are commercial customers — a couple of them have gone into financial bankruptcy or closed their business or some things like that — but the single family residential group, they’re smaller balances,” he said.
The ACSA has had success working with customers on payment plans, he said, and typically has had very few disconnections.
“Our hope is we can go through that process and have very few, if anybody, that we actually would have to go out and disconnect for nonpayment,” O’Connell said.
To establish a payment plan, contact the ACSA at (434) 977-4511 Option #2 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.