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HCSA to review penalties for postmarked payments

SoVaNow.com / March 04, 2013
The Halifax County Service Authority’s practice of applying late fees to customer payments that arrive late but are postmarked before the deadline came in for questioning at an HCSA board meeting on Thursday.

Coleman Speece, a director on the seven-member board, brought up the issue, alluding to a customer who complained to him about mailing in his regular payment two days prior to the due date. Apparently a delay in the mail delivery caused the payment to arrive a day late. The man was assessed a ten percent penalty by the HCSA.

Speece asked if postmarks could be considered before penalties are assessed, since the customer felt his payment had been made on time. HCSA Executive Director Willie Jones explained that his staff records the date on which payments are received, and does not necessarily look at postmarks, which Jones said could be a very time-consuming process.

However, at Speece’s behest, members of the Personnel Committee, headed by Frank Wray, will consider whether the HCSA should change its policy to review the dates on which payments are mailed.

According to HCSA statistics, out of a pool of 2,500 HCSA customers, some 400 to 500 late bills are issued each month to homes and businesses that miss the payment deadline. In January of this year, 486 late bills went mailed out, and service was cut to 115 customers.

Speece commented that “times are tight for a lot of people right now.”

Jones also advised directors that he has submitted an application to the Virginia Resources Authority (VRA) for a $1.7 million loan. The funds would be used to finance the Cowford Road wastewater treatment plant conversion and to replace the Lasco pump station which is located in the Halifax Industrial Park on Route 58 west.

The loan will be sought in August, Jones said.

He added that the Authority will have to put some money up front to begin the engineering and planning work on the projects, but the HCSA will be reimbursed once the loan is finalized. He expects the interest rate on the 20 year loan to be set at 2.8 percent.

The savings generated by the Cowford Road plant conversion will more than offset the debt payments when the project is completed, Jones told directors.

A third project called for under the HCSA Strategic Plan is a facilities study, to identify and prioritize projects that are needed to maintain the Authority’s level of services. Jones estimated the study could cost somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000.

For that sum, the study would help the HCSA establish priorities for water tank repair or replacement, sewer line repairs, hydrant maintenance and other critical needs. He said the Authority currently has four engineering firms under contract, and he asked that two board members join him in interviewing the firms to decide how to evaluate their proposals.

Directors Joe Barkley and Jim Debiec were tapped to assist Jones with the engineering proposals.

Following the public session, board members went into executive session to discuss several applications they have received for the Executive Director’s position and how interviews for the job will be conducted. They took no action on the matter.

Absent from the Thursday meeting were members Stuart Nelson and Joe Barkley.

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