NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - A crowd of people showed up at the New Bern Board of Aldermen meeting to protest the city's new utility policy. The turnout was so large, the crowd overflowed into the lobby of City Hall and into the streets.
Customers showed up in response to a new policy that was enacted on July 1.
The new policy is aimed at reducing the city's annual write offs. The city says each year, it writes off over a half million dollars in unpaid utility bills.
The new policy has two main components.
First--the city has scaled back on how many times a person can negotiate a payment plan to pay their bill. It use to be 12 months a year, that has now been reduced to 10 months.
The second component--a deposit for delinquent payment users. The city says when a person comes in to make a payment plan-- if they have a history of not paying their bills--- they have to make a deposit based on their outstanding balance. The city calculates a person's deposit by combining a customer's two highest utility bills. City officials say customer's have until the end of the fiscal year to finish making that deposit. That mean's a person's deposit will need to be paid in full by June 30, 2015--before the new fiscal year starts on July 1, 2015.
A petition with almost one thousand signatures was turned over to the board of aldermen.
Some of the aldermen suggested reevaluating the city's new policy. City representatives say they understand people's concerns, but also say they have to figure out a way to solve the problem of unpaid utility bills.