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Hertford extends high-bill payments

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Frank Norman

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Saturday, December 22, 2018

HERTFORD — Town of Hertford utility customers who got a bill this month for 41 days of usage, instead of the typical 30 or 31, will have a little extra time to pay it before they’re subject to having their power cut off.

During a special meeting on Friday that began with controversy, Hertford Town Council agreed it wasn’t customers’ fault that the most-recent utility billing period was longer than normal and that, as a result, bills for about a third of the town’s customers were higher. Therefore, they said customers should be given more time to pay those bills.

Without council’s decision, Hertford customers who didn’t pay their bills would start getting their power turned off on Dec. 27. Because of the decision, utility cutoffs will be delayed until Jan. 7.

Both Councilman Quentin Jackson and Frank Norman voted to approve the one-time delay for utility payments. Mayor Horace Reid did not vote, and Councilman Sid Eley was absent from Friday’s meeting.

Norman pressed for an even bigger reprieve for customers, saying anyone who was late paying their December bill shouldn’t have to pay a late fee or be subjected to any other punishment from the town.

Jackson, however, wanted to limit the relief only to those who got a bill covering 41 days. Some customers received bills for the standard 30-31 days, while some others may have been billed for 36 days.

“If you got the bill (for 30-31 days) and just didn’t pay it,” you should not get a break, Jackson said.

The town said about 300 of the town’s 1,000-plus customers received bills for 41 days. The late billing was caused by a combination of a few days of very rainy weather and three holidays.

The meeting, which was called on short notice, was questioned by one resident before it even got underway. Edgar Salvo, who lives on Market Street, called the meeting a violation of North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law.

Jackson, however, called Salvo out of order, and said the town had provided the public 36 hours notice for the meeting. He then called on the town’s police chief to eject Salvo from the meeting.

Jackson was advised, however, that only the mayor could have someone ejected from a meeting, so Salvo remained in his seat.

Jackson had called for Friday’s special meeting because he wanted the board to act quickly to replace Archie Aples, who is resigning from Hertford Town Council on Jan. 1.

Reid was adamant, however, that no decision on the impending council vacancy would be made Friday. He said the decision on Aples’ replacement would be made in February.

Reid also said he wasn’t expecting action on any of the three issues on the meeting’s agenda, only discussion.

“There are three times we’re taking a look at,” he said to Jackson, repeating what he said three times. “I hope you get my message.”

Jackson pressed the issue, however, saying that for the good of the town, the board must fill Aples’ vacancy quickly.

“You are not in favor of it, so you are trying to stop it,” Jackson said to Reid.

Norman and Jackson agreed the Aples vacancy should be addressed before council’s regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 7.

Addressing the only other item on Friday’s agenda, the board agreed to create an assistant finance officer’s position for the town. The position will have a salary range of $27,500 to $28,875. Funds for it will come from unused salary funds already in this year’s budget.

Town Manager Pamela Hurdle said Finance Director Cindy Sharber is the only person who knows the details of the finance office. If she were to retire, the town would lose that knowledge.

Hurdle said adding the position would also solve the problem that shows up on the town’s audit every year that there isn’t a clear separation of duties in the finance department.

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