By Taylor Boyd
The Stuart Town Council reversed its decision of a month ago, and now is disconnecting certain services for customers who are unable to pay.
Town Manager Terry Tilley said the change was prompted by the low number of cases.
“Stuart did not get affected by the virus as badly as we feared and has been handling the COVID-19 crisis very well,” Tilley said, adding the recent decision to disconnect service could be reversed “if we move back into Phase 2 instead of firmly into Phase 3 of the pandemic.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, council members voted to keep services offered by the town — including water, sewage, and garbage — turned on, regardless of whether customers were able to pay their bills during the crisis.
That decision was made to make sure that customers financially affected by the virus still had access to services, he said.
Currently, the town works with customers to set up payment plans for those who were unable to pay for services. Tilley said that those customers are paying the current month’s bill and a percentage of their previous unpaid balance.
Even with this payment plan in place, Tilley said services to some customers who are unable to make regular payments are being disconnected.
Town workers are also taking the necessary precautions outlined by the government to minimize their risk of catching and spreading the virus.
Tilley added there have been no issues with workers not following guidelines outlined by health officials to help contain spread of the virus, in part because many of the workers primarily work outside away from people.
As of Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 176 confirmed cases in Patrick County, with 36 people hospitalized and five people dead.