The City of Alexandria issued a press release on July 11 stating that a report aired by KALB on July 10 concerning utility disconnects for non-payment presented only one side of the story. These are the facts KALB knew but chose to minimize or omit from its report:
1. The disconnect order in question was dispatched well before any weather advisory was in effect.
2. KALB also knew, but failed to report, that the City made no further disconnects for the remainder of the week ending June 30, 2023.
3. For almost two weeks, the City corresponded with KALB staff, specifically Alexander Orenczuk, to provide correct and accurate information concerning KALB’s alleged tip.
4. Through Project RESTOR, the City has awarded 1,873 grants valued at over $1 million to low and moderate-income customers. In addition, over 7,200 customers have been afforded installment plans of up to twelve months to pay back another $7 million in past-due utility charges.
5. The City is not regulated by the LPSC but has chosen to exercise its discretion and adopt policies and practices which parallel the LPSC’s 2007 General Order concerning disconnects during extreme weather.
6. The City staff did not email “the entire newsroom,” as KALB alleged. It emailed its written responses to firstname.lastname@example.org just as it has with countless other press releases, updates, road closures, boil advisories, and similar critical information, the customary practice for over a decade.
7. With regards to the anonymous tipster:
Although KALB has attempted to protect the tipster as anonymous to the public, it has directly identified him by name to the City; he is not the account holder for the Laurel St. account mentioned in the story.
The account holder, not the tipster, owed over $2,358 in past-due utility charges.
Only 6 of the last 16 bills had been partially paid; in fact, no payment in any amount was made between May 2022 and April 2023.
This account has not had a zero balance since October 2019.
A payment arrangement was defaulted, resulting in the disconnect order being printed.
This account holder did not apply for assistance under Project RESTOR.
The report also stated that all utility services were disconnected; that is not true. Initially, only the electric service at delinquent accounts is disconnected; water and gas service will remain on until the account is reinstated or closed.
This administration has been charged with the daunting task of stabilizing rates, ensuring routine billing and collection cycles, and guaranteeing the long-term creditworthiness of the utility as a whole. No other utility – municipal, cooperative, or investor-owned – has offered the complexity and scope of discretionary installment payments, extensions, grants, and different innovative approaches to managing past-due balances as has the City in the last seven months. Ultimately, the City’s utility is a business; services are delivered, and payment for those services is expected. If a customer is facing financial difficulties, we encourage them to contact the City now to discuss payment arrangements or other options. There are also community assistance programs available for those who qualify. Taking action now can help keep bills manageable and utility services connected.