Wilson City Councils Amends Utility Disconnection Policy during COVID-19 Crisis
The Wilson City Council held a special meeting today to discuss procedures for holding remote meetings and changes to the city’s utility policies considering the changing conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Manager Grant Goings began by explaining the structure of Wilson Energy. Power consumed by Wilson Energy customers comes through a wholesale contract which the city must pay under all circumstances. He said while the City Council must be responsive and adaptive to this unprecedented time, the overall financial position of the city must be considered.
“It does not serve our community if we use up all of our resources in the first 30 days of this crisis and cannot pay the operating expenses or employees needed to keep the system running,” said Goings.
Goings reviewed the details of the current Wilson Energy finances and the amount needed in reserves to ensure operations can continue through the pandemic.
With several major employers temporarily shut down, including Wilson Energy’s largest industrial electric customer, and many commercial businesses ordered closed under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order, the city faces lost industrial revenue, lost commercial revenue and some residential customers suddenly unable to pay utility bills due to job loss.
City Council members were presented with a draft policy that would allow suspension of electric disconnections during the public health emergency. The policy aims to help those customers who have been affected by the pandemic, specifically through job loss.
The Council ultimately approved the ordinance temporarily amending the city’s utility termination of service policy effective immediately and in place until April 17. The Council will meet at least one time before the April 17 date and can make any necessary adjustments to the policy to adapt to current conditions.
“Our citizens know our track record,” said Goings. “The city has been there for our citizens during hurricanes, devastating floods, winter storms and other disasters. They can rest assured that the City Council and city employees will continue to act in the citizens’ best interest throughout the duration of the current crisis.”
The ordinance specifically says that while the city is in a locally declared public health emergency, the city’s residential utility service disconnection policy is suspended for any customer who has lost his or her job as a result of the public health emergency.
Customers are asked to contact the city’s Customer Service staff at 252-399-2200 to discuss individual circumstances. We will request written evidence of a job loss. Please visit the Customer Service page on the city’s website for more information: https://www.wilsonnc.org/residents/all-departments/financial-services/customer-service-and-business-operations
The Council also approved a remote participation policy for meetings during the COVID-19 state of emergency.