After month of deferrals, Hurricane Power Department reinstates electricity shut-offs due to nonpayment

Stock photo by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay, St. George News

HURRICANE — After deferring cutting off power to its customers during March in order to help ease financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Hurricane City Power resumed shut-offs Tuesday, leaving some people feeling left in the dark – both literally and figuratively.

Hurricane City Manager Clark Fawcett told St. George News that while they have reinstated the shut-offs for April, they will continue to monitor the situation going forward. As per last month, he said, the city is still allowing people to just pay past-due bills in order to get their power back on rather than having to pay additional charges.

“We’re still trying to be more careful with them,” Fawcett said. “If some people don’t pay their bills, after a while it seems that they build up in a hurry so much that they can’t get themselves out of the hole. So I felt like I still needed to do some (shut-offs), but we’re still trying to work with them as best as we can if they have issues.”

Hurricane resident and Intermountain Healthcare medical assistant Brittany Emery told St. George News that at around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, she was in her scrubs scrambling eggs for her kids’ breakfast and getting ready to go to work when all of the sudden her power shut off.

“Everything turned off, and it’s raining,” she said. “So I’m thinking maybe something happened with the power because of the rain.”

File photo of Hurricane City office building, Hurricane, Utah, March 17, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

But when she ran outside, she saw the Hurricane City Power truck driving away. She said she ran after the truck and found out that her power had been turned off.

“I begged them. I said, ‘Could you guys just please give me 24 hours just to get this cleared?'” she said.

Emery said she called the Hurricane utility department and was just told that they weren’t charging any penalty fees.

“And I’m like, ‘That’s great, but I’d rather have paid the penalty fees to know this information in advance or give me 24 hours to get my power on.'”

She said she had to call off work so she could get her bill handled.

The main issue Emery said she had with the shut-off is that there was no real advance notice.

“They just sent out normal notices, like how it normally would be,” she said, but said some people aren’t even checking their mail right now because they are paranoid of contracting the virus.

She said she didn’t think relying on the mail service for something so big during a time when the rest of the world is still on pause was a good call.

“I thought that they should have at least put the effort of putting notices on people’s doors that they were going back to the normal schedule of shut-offs because a lot of other places weren’t yet.”

When they were announcing that they weren’t going to turn power off last month, they put notices on the doors, she said.

With not having shut-offs and people getting their stimulus checks, Emery said she was doing what she imagined most people were doing.

“You’re taking your money and trying to give everybody just a little bit to satisfy everybody,” she said, “but if I would have known that for 93 more dollars it would’ve kept my electricity on, I probably wouldn’t have paid my gas or another bill; I would have applied it to that.”

She said during this time when schools and other businesses are closed, people are up against extra challenges.

“You’ve got kids in school who are at home,” she said. “You can’t just go to a library. You can’t just go to a restaurant and await things.”

Fawcett confirmed that the city sent out power shut-off notices in the mail per usual protocol.

“We always send out a shut-off notice, and it goes out about two weeks before they get the shutoff,” he said, adding that if they sent out shut-off notices and then didn’t go through with it, the notices would lose credibility.

“We don’t ever put notices on the doors for shut-offs,” he said. “We just send the notices in the mail.”

Fawcett said they really didn’t want to have to do the shut-offs, but it’s hard when there are people who are three months behind paying their bills.

“The longer you let them go, the harder it is for them to get out of the hole when they do it.”

He said he hadn’t thought about people not wanting to get their mail out of fear of contracting the virus and recognized that everybody has a different level of anxiety. He said he hadn’t considered that side of the issue and appreciated the feedback.

The city does have some funds for people in need that they can use in special cases to assist, Fawcett said.

“The people who really do need it, who have lost their jobs, we’re more than happy to help and see what we can do,” he said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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