OMU reaches pre-COVID disconnection numbers; past-due balances continue to decline

May 22, 2021 | 12:07 am

Updated May 21, 2021 | 11:45 pm

File photo by AP Imagery

Customers have paid back more than two-thirds of the initial $1.54 million owed to Owensboro Municipal Utilities in past-due expenses because of COVID-19. Only 914 customers are still on payment plans, owing roughly $467,000 total. 

OMU General Manager Kevin Frizzell provided the update during their monthly meeting, noting there were 1,861 payment plan accounts initially created. 

Frizzell also said the number of accounts eligible for disconnection had now fallen to pre-COVID levels, marking a big milestone for the utility company. 

Currently, there are 68 residential and two commercial accounts with a total balance of approximately $11,000 that make up accounts eligible for disconnection. 

“We’re pretty well back to the normal number of disconnections as of now,” Frizzell said. 

OMU also reopened its customer service center lobby to the general public on May 3 after being closed for more than a year. Officials have put measures in place to safely service its customers, including the requirement of masks and a limited number of customers in the lobby at the same time for social distancing purposes. 

“As we are entering a new, hopeful phase of the pandemic with COVID-19 restrictions continuing to be relaxed, we will be updating our Healthy at Work measures accordingly, including beginning to safely and gradually transition teleworking employees back to the workplace,” Frizzell said. 

Frizell did relay a bit of bad news for OMU, saying the company’s FEMA reimbursement application for COVID-19 expenses had been denied. 

The requested reimbursement amount totaled $194,160. Frizzell said per FEMA’s opinion, OMU is “ineligible for reimbursement, as OMU did not conduct any eligible emergency protective measures or actions to save lives or protect public health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to FEMA, the provision of electric, water and telecommunication services are not considered eligible protective measures, and any COVID-19 costs associated with the provision of these services are considered increased operating costs. 

During the preparation of their application, which Frizzell said required “diligent” work, OMU Accounting personnel worked with approximately 10 different individuals at the state and federal level without any indication that OMU was ineligible for reimbursement. 

OMU has appealed FEMA’s decision and is awaiting further instructions regarding the appeal process, though Frizzell admitted it was unlikely FEMA would change its mind about the denial. OMU is currently seeking other possible funding options, namely through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  

May 22, 2021 | 12:07 am

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