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Village offers payment plan for overdue utility bills as COVID shutoff ban ends

LAKE PLACID — The village plans to begin imposing late fees on utility bills again. A deferred payment option is now available.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation last month extending the statewide moratorium on utility shutoffs to 180 days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted, or 180 days after Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

The legislation also requires utility companies to offer a deferred payment plan to customers who have faced financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees authorized a deferred payment plan for village utility users this week, which both residential and commercial customers will be able to apply for to avoid late fees. The deferred payment plan would be the user’s current bill, plus one-12th of what they owe from previous billing periods, or $25, whichever is higher, according to village Treasurer Mindy Goddeau.

“If they don’t want to, they don’t have to (enter into a deferred payment plan),” Goddeau said Wednesday, June 2. “They will just start receiving penalties on their account.”

The village provides utility services to just over 5,000 customers, and more than 9% of them — around 459 customers — have electric bills that are past due, according to Goddeau.

Owners of small businesses that are serviced by village water, sewer or electric, and who owe money for utility services, will now start to see late fees added to their bills unless they’ve shown the village that their business has seen financial hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic, or unless they’ve entered into a deferred payment plan with the village, according to Goddeau. A small business is defined as a company with fewer than 25 employees.

Usually, unpaid bills for water service are added to a person’s property tax bill. However, because of the ongoing state of emergency because of the pandemic, the village won’t be adding those bills onto anyone’s property taxes until the state of emergency is lifted, according to Goddeau. The village plans to re-levy water accounts with 30 days’ notice after the state of emergency is lifted, or after Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

For customers who have shown the village that they’ve faced financial hardship because of the pandemic, unpaid water bills won’t be added to their property taxes until 180 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

However, the village still plans to add unpaid sewer bills onto customers’ property taxes as usual.

Any utility customers with questions can call the village offices at 518-523-2597.