MIAMI — Residents of Miami with past due utility bills are being given another reprieve in the form of one more week’s opportunity to bring their account up to current or to establish a payment plan before facing being shutoff.
Originally announced as Thursday, June 4, the cutoff date has been extended to Tuesday, June 9.
The City of Miami had suspended shutoffs during the coronavirus pandemic to help customers who are struggling financially.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to cut off customers if it can be avoided, but as a public utility trust we must collect payment for utilities provided,” city manager Dean Kruithof said. “There is still time for those customers who can’t afford to pay their bill in full to avoid shutoff if they work with us.
“We have been putting out the word during the shutdown that we would not be disconnecting customers for non-payment until June, but have strongly encouraged customers to come in and establish a payment plan if they won’t be able to pay their bill in full after that. After the deadline, if accounts are not paid in full or if a payment plan has not been established, they will be disconnected,” Kruithof said.
During the shutdown, the city sent e-mails and text messages 3,967 times to remind customers that billing procedures would return to normal, and they mailed 1,750 letters.
At this point there are still 422 accounts that could be shut off, according to Kruithof.
Once an account is shut off the city will require full payment, including disconnect fees, in order for it to be restored.
At last week’s special city council meeting, members voted to approve an ordinance just for the month of June that will allow a past due account to be restored if the customer enters into a pre-established payment plan.
City attorney Ben Loring said, “Under our previous ordinance, all shutoffs for non-payment had been postponed to June 3. And prior to this, if customers got shut off, in order to get turned back on they would have had to pay their bill in full plus various fees and penalties.”
Loring said only 48 customers came in to talk to about a payment plan and of those, only 42 actually set up a plan for their account.
“The city is now giving them one more opportunity to come in and work out a plan,” Loring said. “But we’ve had very few people do that. It’s pretty frustrating. That means the rest have not taken advantage of this opportunity during the last month and a half.”
Customers now have an additional week to make a payment and the city will still work with them on a plan that allows the past due amount to be divided up so it’s not as onerous.
The length of the payment plan is based on how much the city is owed.
If, for instance, up to $299.99 is owed, the city will divide the total into three monthly payments. If the amount is more than $2,000, which many do, the city will divide the payments into eight payments, but that’s as far as they can go, according to Loring.
He said a list of those with past amounts due will be generated Thursday, June 4, and door hangers will go to those they anticipate will be shut off, telling customers again that their account is past due and that they will be shut off the following Tuesday unless they either pay in full or fully execute a payment plan, according to Loring.
“On Friday, June 5, or Monday, June 8, customers can still come in and work out a payment plan on their terms. But as of Tuesday, June 9, if they do get shut off, then when they enter into a payment plan it will be on the city’s terms,” Loring said.
There are several ways customers can pay their bills: drop off at the customer service center or at the night deposit box outside the city offices at 129 5th Ave. NW, pay through the mail to P.O. Box 1288, Miami, OK 74355, pay by automatic bank draft, pay online at https://www.officialpayments.com/index.jsp, or over the phone at 877-496-0511.
Customers can also drop payments off at First National Bank at 2nd N. Main and 1749 N. Main, Security Bank and Trust at 2nd S. Main and 2200 N. Main, and Welch State Bank at 2525 N. Main and 2227 E. Steve Owens Boulevard.
“We have been doing the bank drop offs for several years now,” Amber Prewett, assistant to the city manager, said. “It just makes it a lot easier for our customers. It spreads it across the town so, for example, if they are on the north side they don’t have to drive all the way across town to make a payment.”
Customers are asked to take their bill with them if paying in person to the city to avoid a $5 assessment fee.
Customer service representatives can answer questions at 918-542-6685 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.