As the weather changes in Dodge City so do rules regarding the enforcement of utilities regulations.
Effective Friday, Nov. 1 and continuing through March 31, utilities companies in Kansas are not allowed to disconnect customers for failing to make a payment when the temperature drops below a certain level. The rule applies to situations where temperatures of 35 degrees are lower are forecast for the following 24 hours.
The cold weather rule is enforced by the Kansas Corporation Commission. Dodge City’s Victory Electric Co-op is one of the companies affected by the requirement. According to Communications Specialist for Victory Electric Jerri Imgarten, the co-op encounters many situations each winter where a customer does not pay their bill but the company is not allowed to shut off utilities. Victory Electric feels the impact of the predicament.
“Any time customers are not able to pay, it negatively affects the co-op’s financials,” Imgarten said.
That said, Victory Electric takes measures to work with customers who are unable to pay their bills.
“We understand families go through hard times and we do our best to make arrangements and work with members to develop a payment plan they can manage,” Imgarten said.
The cold weather rule stipulates that utility companies must offer customers a 12-month payment plan for the maintaining or reestablishment of service. Companies must announce shutoffs 24 hours in advance and shutoffs may only be carried out if the temperature is expected to rise above 35 degrees for 48 hours.
Victory Electric stipulates that, in order to qualify for a payment agreement, customers must notify the cooperative and state their inability to pay their service bill. They must also apply to federal, state, local or other financial assistance programs. State agencies and local charities that help residents with utility bills include Red Cross, Salvation Army, State of Kansas SRS, First Presbyterian Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Methodist Youthville and United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries.
For any disconnect process, Victory Electric follows the rules and guidelines set by the Kansas Corporation Commission. The co-op has approximately 13,000 members and 19,000 meters.