Nederland waives utility bill late fees, disconnect orders
Published 12:13 am Wednesday, March 25, 2020
NEDERLAND — Utility bill late fees have been suspended for 30 days and orders for the disconnection of service for non-payment are waived for two weeks in Nederland.
Council members approved the measures this week as the impacts of social distancing and business closures due to the coronavirus continue to impact Mid-County and the rest of the nation.
Those extensions could be revisited in upcoming meetings, as well as the city’s own disaster declaration, which was extended through April 22.
The city has closed all public building lobbies while keeping phone lines open and staffing in place.
Those looking to pay utility bills or building permit fees can use the City Hall drive-thru window, night drop box, mail-in payments or online bill pay.
“The vast majority of people who have come to the drive-thru are elderly,” City Manager Chris Duque said. “That is concerning because that is, according to the CDC and all medical experts, the most vulnerable population for this virus. So, again, we want to encourage people to utilize other means of paying their bills. I hope we can get that message out.”
The Nederland City Council, itself, set an example for social distancing Monday with all elected council members calling in for the regular meeting, leaving the in-person dais to only feature the city manager, city clerk and Mayor Don Albanese.
“Right now it looks like everybody is pretty much on the same page as far as staying healthy,” Albanese said. “If this thing lingers on, well, we might get into a situation or two. If we practice our hygiene and our due diligence, I think we will get over this.”
Nederland officials said planned improvement projects for city roads and at the community swimming pool are working on schedule.
“In this state, (contractors) are still working in Harris County and other counties where they have had a much higher number of reported (coronavirus) cases,” Duque said. “I think those businesses are making every effort they can to prevent their employees from getting sick. They are still making that effort to continue those projects. At this time, we have not been told anything that would indicate those projects are going to be delayed or postponed. That may change if we get direction, otherwise, from the state.”
Duque said the city is pushing members of the public to practice smart social distancing, noting the recreation center remains closed but public parks access is permitted.
Duque said the city’s water supply continues to be safe for the public.
“This is not like a hurricane, where you have to worry that the supply of water is going to be interrupted,” he said. “There is no reason for people to hoard bottled water. This is a respiratory illness. It does not have anything to require you to hoard toilet paper or paper towels.”
Police Chief Gary Porter said officers have not had any issues with juveniles violating the county’s 24-hour curfew for anyone 17 or younger.
The police department also posted signs in front of the station on Boston Avenue explaining the limits to public access of the station.
Walk-ups are asked to call 722-4965 from their cell phone to conduct business. Visitors without cell phones can utilize a phone at the back of the station.
“If need be, we’ll escort them into the station,” Porter said. “We’re just trying to keep our exposure down. We don’t have a whole lot of extra police officers, so if one of us gets sick, it’s not going to be good.”
Porter said a visitor on Monday requested a police officer witness fine money being put in the drop box, a request Porter said his staff granted.
Fire Chief Terry Morton said area emergency managers are meeting every day by phone to keep up to date with each other.
During discussion this week about relations between the city and county, a council member asked: “How has the communication between all of the local cities and the county going now? Is it any better? Is it getting there? Is it worse?”
Duque said, “like with anything, there is always room for improvement. We are always striving (to improve) because communication is very important. It is something we have stressed recently. I think we will continue to work on that.”