Friday, December 3, 2010

Moratorium Info

From today's Commercial Appeal, information on our various moratoriums...

MLGW won't unplug utilities
Policy urges residential customers to pay anyway

For a month starting Dec. 15, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division will stop cutting off utilities to residential customers who don't pay their bills.

It's part of an annual cold-weather mercy program.

"We don't cut you off, but you really ought to pay because if you're having trouble with one bill, you'll have trouble with two bills," said Chris Bieber, the utility's vice president of customer care.

Memphis has a high poverty rate -- the Brookings Institution in January estimated it at 23.1 percent of the population. Payment patterns suggest that some people pay close attention to what the utility calls moratoriums.

In a normal month, MLGW processes about 400,000 payments, Bieber said. In a moratorium month, that drops to about 310,000. "People just stop paying," he said.

The utility has several cutoff moratoriums. One protects people between Dec. 15 and Jan. 14 except in cases of theft, threats to safety and default on special payment plans.

There's a similar moratorium that applies any day of the year in cases of severe hot and cold weather.

There are also extra protections for those who are over 60 or who have documented physical problems.

And even when the utility cuts off electricity and gas, it keeps providing water for up to 60 days.

In other news, the MLGW board is expected to vote at an upcoming meeting on whether to allow new employees to live anywhere in Shelby County, rather than continuing to require that they live in Memphis, said general counsel Cheryl W. Patterson.

The new policy would mirror one that voters approved last month for city of Memphis workers. That vote reversed a 2004 referendum that required most to live within city limits. MLGW had adopted a similar policy following the 2004 vote.

MLGW president and CEO Jerry Collins Jr. said the utility has already stopped enforcing the "Memphis-only" policy.

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