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Late fees, utility disconnection suspended again in Nederland

NEDERLAND — Nederland City Council members extended the city’s suspension of late fees associated with unpaid utility bills, as well as the city’s plan not to disconnect service for non-payment.

Those actions were approved this week, but city leaders also signaled an effort to return to usual business as Nederland and the rest of Texas embrace large-scale reopening under the lead of Gov. Greg Abbott.

City Manager Christopher Duque noted the extensions last through June 21, adding it would not extend beyond that point.

“We will probably just rely on a payment plan approach,” Duque said. “I have enough authority to work with people to where we can get to another three or four months on payment plans to help people as much as possible.”

Duque said city leaders would start providing more dates on returning to normal for facilities and services later this week.

“I know we all want to get back to normal,” he said. “We also want to protect our residents’ health and our employees’ health.”

In a move that seemed to surprise some city council members, Duque waived his right to 80 hours of accrued paid leave owed to him as an essential employee during coronavirus response.

While addressing Duque, one councilman said the city manager was likely the busiest city employee during Nederland’s initial response to COVID-19 and was, therefore, entitled to the pay.

Duque responded: “Just say it this way. I did my job and I don’t need to be paid extra for having done my job.”

Councilman Talmadge Austin said he appreciated all the updates Duque provides council members and residents.

“I would have given you the extra pay had you wanted it,” Austin said. “That’s your call. I wanted to tell you I do appreciate (you) and I think you are doing a great job.”

In other City of Nederland business:

  • Emmett Hollier was unanimously named mayor pro tem:

“Thank you, sir, and thank you to the rest of the councilmembers,” Hollier said. “I appreciate the vote of confidence and, hopefully, I will do each member well and this great city of Nederland.”

  • Tracking at Nederland’s water plant indicates local residents used 19 percent more water in the last four weeks when compared to similar timeframes. City leaders said Nederland is “still well within our limits of supply.”
  • The Nederland City Council is next scheduled to meet May 18.