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Eudora News and Informationwww.eudorareporter.com

Recently, resident Beverly Wyant spoke to both The Eudora City Council and the local media about issues she had with the City in regards to when the city will discontinue electrical service due to non payment of bills.  (The original story can be read by clicking here.)

This outcry caused the City Council to reevaluate the process and formalize rules in the city code to assist people like the Wyants.  At the City Council meeting last Monday night, the City Council unanimously adopted several changes to the policy to help out citizens like Wyant.

The City of Eudora now has a cold weather policy in place. No one will be disconnected until the outdoor temperature is above 32 for a consecutive 48 hour period.

Residents with life supporting medical needs or equipment are allowed two medical extensions per year.  There are several requirements to obtaining this extension. The biggest of those requirements is that a letter must be provided by a licensed physician in Kansas. The letter is good for one use and if a second extension is needed a new letter must be obtained by the patient or their family.

Customers can now request a disconnection hearing, but the only people that would be able to delay the disconnection from occurring, are those that have life preserving medical equipment.

And for those 65 or older on Social Security who receive their Social Security checks after the 10th of the month, they can request to have the 10% penalty waived and can request that their billing date be changed to later in the month. Senior citizens will need to obtain a letter from the Social Security administration that states that their payments fall after the 10th of the month to be eligible.

Many of these policies were being followed informally by City Hall and this action now puts those policies in writing and allows gives City Hall staff more clarification and ability to assist customers.

A large discussion took place during the debate of this policy about the late fees charged by the city.  Councilwoman Maria Nelson stated that she thought the late fees “are really really high”.  Nelson stated how she noticed that on of the bills she pays, “the city has the highest and strictest policy of any of them.”

The cities current policy is that if your bill is not paid by the due date, a 10% fee is added to your bill. For most residents, the billing date is the 10th of the month.  If the bill is not paid by the 20th of the month, a door hangar is placed  on your door and a $25 fee is charged. If the bill is still not paid by the 21st, your electricity is disconnected and another $25 fee is charged to reconnect your service when the bill has been paid.

City Staff in attendance and other City Council members brought up the fact that the City currently has over $200,000 in uncollected payments for utilities and services and if the fees were lowered, it would likely cause that number to rise even more.  A city staff member also noted that Baldwin City’s disconnect rate was over double what Eudora currently charges.

No action was taken by the council to change the late fee amounts or disconnect fees rates from what they currently are.

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Eudora News and Information www.eudorareporter.com

Beverly Wyant and her husband have been living in a temporary home due to a fire that forced them out of their house back in November, 2010. Wyant’s husband is terminally ill and is dependent on oxygen. Because of the needed oxygen, Wyant is also very dependent on electricity to run the equipment that keeps her husband alive.

While Wyant has been dealing with trying to rebuild their home and lives from the fire, they have struggled to make ends meet.  Last week Wyant received a notice from the City of Eudora that her power would be shut off if she did not pay the bill by the 21st of February. All utility bills for those served by the City of Eudora are due on the 10th of the month.

Wyant,  on limited income, called the city to request a five day extension. Wyant reports that “I was not offered the opportunity to ask for that extension. I was informed that the policy of the city was to disconnect the next morning.” Wyant’s daughter came to her rescue and paid her utility bill to avoid being disconnected.

The policy the City of Eudora adopted in January 2010, states that the city no longer offers extensions past the 20th of the month for utility billing.  If you pay your bill after the 10th, a 10% penalty is applied.  If the bill is not paid by the 21st, the utilities will be disconnected.

Eudora City Administrator John Harrenstein states that “The City Clerk’s office was unaware of the needed life support.” He further added that the city was alerted that the need for hospice care was there, but it was not stated that Wyant’s husband needed oxygen.  “We will not turn off power in a life threatening situation.”

The current city policy makes no mention of how life threatening situations can affect or change the cutoff date in regards to bill payment.  “In the next two to four weeks, the Clerk’s office will be recommending a procedure to address situations like this.” Harrenstein said. “The policies in place need to be reviewed.”

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