Some may face electric, gas cutoffsTuesday, April 15, is the service cutoff date. Wisconsin’s Winter Emergency Period, a state moratorium on residential energy service disconnection, ends on that date.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Tuesday, April 15, is the service cutoff date. Wisconsin’s Winter Emergency Period, a state moratorium on residential energy service disconnection, ends on that date.
After that local utilities can disconnect service to customers who are overdue on the winter electric and gas bills.
According to Jan Lorenz, River Falls Municipal Utilities customer service supervisor, there are more than 400 electric utility customers with overdue bills. RFMU has some 5,800 customers.
Lorenz said the number of delinquent bills is higher than last spring and part of an upward trend the past two years. She estimated this year’s unpaid bills total upward of $8,000.
“It is River Falls Municipal Utilities’ goal to do what we can to collect unpaid bills that may have accumulated during the moratorium period,” Lorenz said. “Doing so helps keep electric rates down in our community.”
Those behind on their RFMU electric bills should call Lorenz or Rhonda Davison at 426-0906 to work out a payment plan. Customers can also stop in weekdays at RFMU’s office at 125 E. Elm St.
Lorenz said RFMU makes every effort to help create affordable payment plans. Otherwise, disconnect warnings go out in the mail. Notices are also placed on doorknobs.
“We do disconnects starting April 16,” Lorenz said.
Depending on household income, the state’s Energy Assistance programs offers financial aid. In Pierce County, call 273-6788. In St. Croix County, call 246-8257.
Also, the local Salvation Army is a social-service organization that tries to help residents with overdue utility bills.
St. Croix Gas, 425 S. Second St., also has its share of late customers.
Marti Piepgras, St. Croix Gas vice president, said disconnect notices are up 50% this year across the company’s service territory, which extends behind River Falls. That increase translates into roughly one in 10 total customers who are behind with bills.
Piepgras said in the River Falls area, including the towns of Troy, River Falls and southern Kinnickinnic, about 7% of customers are behind on their gas bills. Disconnect notices are being mailed to 315 homes.
In the rest of the service area, which includes Hammond, Prescott and the town of Clifton, the delinquency rate is 17% — 376 disconnect notices are being sent.
As with RFMU, Piepgras said St. Croix gas customers should call right away to avoid a service cutoff.
“The number of disconnection notices that will turn into actual disconnection on April 15th is difficult to predict,” she said. “Cold weather forecasts on or after the 15th will motivate disconnected customers to avoid or quickly remedy the disconnection.
“Customers can avoid disconnections by contacting our office to make reasonable payment agreements.”
The St. Croix Gas number to call is 425-6177.
Piepgras said those who wait to pay their bills until after the gas shut off will have to pay a $35 reconnection charge. That charge is higher if the reconnection is done after normal business hours.
She said some tardy customers try holding out until the next wave of cold weather in fall before paying bills and having their gas hooked up again.
Piepgras said natural gas prices were close to what they were a year ago but that the colder winter brought higher bills.