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Central Arkansas Water to resume shut-offs Oct. 1

by Rachel Herzog | August 14, 2020 at 7:15 a.m.

Central Arkansas Water will begin a phased plan to resume shut-offs in October, after halting them in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While customers currently aren't losing access to water for failure to pay, they are being charged and will have to pay the outstanding balance on their account.

At least 15,000 billing accounts were delinquent as of June 30.

Central Arkansas Water bills for water, sewer and trash providers in seven counties in central Arkansas. As of June 30, there were more than 15,000 delinquent water accounts, more than 14,000 delinquent sewer accounts and more than 10,000 delinquent solid-waste accounts, according to the most recent figures available from the utility.

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The utility has sent monthly notices to customers who are behind on their bills and this month will send an additional letter letting people know that Central Arkansas Water plans to resume shut-offs Oct. 1, Jeff Mascagni, the utility's chief financial officer, told the utility's board of commissioners at Thursday's regular meeting.

There also will be an additional letter encouraging people to pay or set up a payment plan by Sept. 30 to get a 10% discount, he added.

Customers with write-offs who were given service or customers with previous illegal connections to the system, then customers who have made no payments for 90 days or more, will be the first to be shut off in October.

In November, customers with balances greater than $300, then all other past-due customers will be shut off. The utility plans to resume normal shut-off procedures in December.

The utility received a written comment from local activist Barry Haas, who asked how the utility could balance the need for water during the public health crisis with other expenditures it makes, including conservation easements and downtown property purchases.

"How can you set your priorities like that?" Haas wrote.

Chief Executive Officer Tad Bohannon noted the decision takes into account the other service providers for which the utility provides billing services.

Those include the Little Rock Water Reclamation Authority, North Little Rock Wastewater, the city of Little Rock's Solid Waste division, the sanitation departments for Pulaski County and the city of Sherwood, and others.

In January, the total of overdue balances on all water, sewer and and trash accounts was $2.5 million, according to Central Arkansas Water media specialist Chelsea Boozer. That figure had increased to $3.4 million by June and then to $4.2 million by July. Those numbers include any water, sewer or trash account that is more than 31 days overdue.

The mayors' offices of Little Rock and North Little Rock have been briefed on the plan, Bohannon said.

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