Hannibal residents have noticed a change in their BPW bills.
We received a Facebook comment Thursday from a viewer who said, "The Board of Public Works has done it again! You get your bill and the date your bill is due, now they only give you ONE day and it will be late and you will get a disconnection."
We did a little digging to find out more information. What we discovered is that BPW made a change to their policy last fall. They distributed notices and the change was made complete in February.
There is a slight change in the schedule dates. Here's the break down ...
Old Method: The bill was mailed on the 1st of the month and was due on the 17th. If it was not paid within 5 days, it was deemed delinquent. Unpaid bills were subject to disconnect on the 29th.
New Method: The bill is mailed on the 1st of the month and is due on the 17th. It now becomes delinquent on the 18th. Unpaid bills are subject to disconnect on the 31st.
The policy shifts in two ways. First, it eliminates a five-day grace period after the due date. But here's the key...the due date stayed the same - 17 days after it's mailed to you. Number two...no grace period means a bill becomes delinquent if it's not paid by the due date and you're charged a fee listed on the bill.
Robert Stevenson, General Manager at the Board of Public Works, say these changes are fair and are in line with any other bill you'd pay.
Stevenson said, "It's better for all of our customers to keep accounts current and short. So we've tried to make the policy crystal clear so everyone is treated fairly."
Stevenson says the real motivation behind the change is to give customers who cannot pay a chance to get help.
Most social service agencies that offer emergency assistance, like North East Community Action Corporation, can step in only when bills are delinquent.
Stevenson said, "Now NECAC has time to get the money here to help people who desperately need it. So we've reduced the number of cut-offs."
NECAC spokesperson Brent Engel says there's a larger problem - fewer dollars for energy assistance at a time when the need is greater than ever.
Engel said, "We're happy to provide services to those we can, but when we come to the end of the money we have, we have to turn people away."
Back at Public Works, Stevenson says those higher energy costs are hurting city utilities, too. This non-profit agency has to buy power like everyone else...which means when prices go up, it has to pay up...the same thing it's asking its customers to do.
NECAC's summer energy assistance program begins June first.
Got a gripe? We'd love to hear it ... post your comment below or join the conversation on Facebook .