Bingen water customers may be eligible for a payment plan on late water bills.

Under an ordinance approved by Bingen City Councilors at their Oct. 5 meeting, water customers who are 30 days past due on water bills with a minimum charge of $300 may request a payment plan if they meet the following criteria: If they are on a fixed income and receiving all applicable city discounts; if they incurred severe financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, water leak, or medical emergency/condition; or if their water cannot be shut-off due to the health conditions of the persons living on the premises, or due to the age of the occupants.

Customers who meet the criteria will be receiving a letter from the city notifying them past due bills, and two options they make take to satisfy the fees, according to Bingen Deputy City Clerk Dena Riggleman.

Customers can either contact Bingen City Hall to enroll in the payment plan program or contact WAGAP to enroll in a similar program, according to the letter sent out to city utility customers.

Under a WAGAP-Bingen partnership program, customers behind on water and sewer payments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic may enroll in a CARES Act-funded program to fund their water and sewer debts.

Customers do not have to demonstrate hardship to receive funds under the Bingen-WAGAP partnership, nor to determine eligibility under the new payment plan program, Riggleman said.

The ordinance was enacted in conjunction with a statewide moratorium on utility late fees and shutoffs that expired Sept. 30, said Riggleman.

“For the past 18 months, the city was not charging late fees or implementing water shut offs for past due utility accounts. However, the monthly base fees and water usage fees were assessed to the account each month,” the letter said. “These balances will continue to compound if payments are not made on the account.”

The basic terms of the payment plan, according to the ordinance, will require customers entering the payment plan to fully pay off their outstanding balance within one year; if a balance is outstanding past one year of the plan, minimum monthly payments will increase to $100 until the balance is paid off.

Any variation of the terms of the arrangement must by approved by city council, according to the ordinance.