PEI

City of Summerside absorbs $240K in utility costs during pandemic

The City of Summerside has absorbed about $240,000 in waived fees and utility costs since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

City utility has waived late payment fees and is not disconnecting customers

Deserted shops on Summerside’s Water Street in April during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

The City of Summerside has absorbed about $240,000 in waived fees and utility costs since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, all utility customers within the P.E.I. city were given a $25 rebate, which was applied to monthly bills as a credit, in order to help residents better absorb the financial burdens accompanying the pandemic. 

"We knew that many of our residents would be facing a lot of different things such as layoffs, lack of income coming in, a lot of extra pressure, so the city wanted to do something as a goodwill gesture to assist," said Deputy Mayor Norma McColeman, who also chairs the city's finance committee. 

"We wanted to do that just to show our residents that we were standing with them in our electric utility."

The council unanimously voted for the $25 rebates at a meeting in March.

No disconnections or late payment fees

At Monday night's June council meeting, McColeman said the $25 rebates across the utility's customers amounted to approximately $210,000.

In addition to the rebate, Summerside is not disconnecting any services due to missed payments and has also waived all late payment charges, which has amounted to approximately $30,000 so far.

The city has not yet revealed how the unforeseen costs will be absorbed into the budget. 

"Right now what we are doing is just keeping a check on all of the options in order to see what we will have to mitigate, as far as the costs for the city with our operations and lack of the revenue coming in," McColeman said.

"We will probably be giving that in our next monthly report."

McColeman said the feedback around the temporary policies has been positive and the council sees the move as a way to stand with the city's residents.

"We encouraged our customers, if they were having problems making their payment on the utility, we had a number for them to call and we would certainly try to develop a flexible payment arrangement just to assist them," she said. 

"We didn't want to be heavy handed."

'Recover some way at the other side'

Summerside's city hall reopened Monday for the first time since the pandemic landed on the Island in March.

"These times are very hard for people and people are already under a lot of stress," McColeman said.

"The city just felt at that point we wanted to absorb that and we will try to, you know, recover some way at the other side"

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About the Author

Nicola MacLeod is a reporter with CBC in P.E.I.

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