Although municipal utilities – such as Gardner – are not subject to the Kansas Cold Weather rule, the city tries to work with those customers who are behind on their bills during the winter months.
“ We are working closely with customers to get them into contact with the agencies that offer assistance to help them with the hardships brought on by the COVID 19 Pandemic,” said Daneeka Marshall-Oquendo, public information officer.
Although the Kansas governor suspended late fees and penalties during the pandemic, that order was lifted in Oct. 2021. At the end of the pandemic order, 1518 customers were delinquent, which Marshall-Oquendo said was 306 percent higher than the usual 300 scheduled disconnects.
Due to the installation of “smart” meters last year, customer utilities can now be disconnected from the city office. Customers delinquent on more than $100 will receive a notice, and disconnects will only take place on Wednesdays.
Prior to the disconnection, a notice is placed on the customer’s door to notify them they need to make a payment, or a payment arrangement.
“ Non-pay disconnections only take place on Wednesdays to allow customers the opportunity to satisfy their account prior to the weekend. If the account is satisfied with a payment or payment plan, before 5 p.m. the power will be fully restored same day,” said Marshall-Oquendo.
In some cases, delinquent customers may have their utility disconnect for 15 minutes each hour, which is a function of the “smart” meters. “If the intermittent shut off is occurring it will continued until the account is satisfied,” according to Marshall-Oquendo.
If someone is disconnected the city watches the account to be sure the property is occupied.
“It is rare that someone does not satisfy their account quickly,” Marshall-Oquendo said. “We do  watch the accounts to determine if they need to be  terminated because the property has been vacated or to insure that if the account has been satisfied, services are restored.”
The Kansas Corporation Commission established the Cold Weather Rule in 1983 to protect human health and safety and to insure that Kansans have residential electric, natural gas and water services to their homes during the winter. The Cold Weather Rule is effective from November 1 through March 31. Municipal utilities are exempt from the Cold Weather Rule.