Manvel City Council approved a hardship provision in its rules on the payment of utility bills during its regular meeting on Monday.
The ordinance was proposed by Councilman Jason Albert, who initially envisioned it during the federal government shutdown of December and January during which many employees were furloughed.
After discussion, Albert and the council decided to include other hardships within the provision including natural disasters.
“We’re just giving certain individuals who are in a disaster situation — giving them 180 days to pay, so hopefully that would help in the event of another declared emergency, and we’ll also refrain from shutting off services during that time,” Michael Higgins said.
The hardship provision will also extend to individual hardships.
“Right now, we don’t have anything in our allowance to allow customers to pay over a certain amount of time, so we’re asking for customers to have a 90-day payment plan and they can go over a three month period; just give them additional time to pay without shutting off service. However, there will be penalties and interest during that time period,” Higgins said.
The city also updated its utility ordinance to include service fees when equipment is not faulty, but customers request city employees to diagnose a perceived problem and for customers who request sending the equipment to the manufacturer for diagnosis. Higgins said the city has been eating these costs for years,
“We can’t keep paying thousands of dollars a year because a customer doesn’t, again, agree with diagnosis of the equipment,” Higgins said.