Lockhart approves utility late fees, disconnections
By Wesley Gardner
The Lockhart City Council voted to reinstate late fees and potential disconnections for missed utility payments after temporarily suspending the measures earlier in the year due to issues arising from COVID-19.
City Finance Director Pam Larison said the move is in line with direction received from the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which city staff took direction from when initially suspending late fees and disconnections earlier this year.
Larison noted after a 30-day notice is given on Oct. 15, the past due amounts will be combined and will be placed into a payment plan for the customer with a final due date of September 30, 2021. Moving forward, only current utility bills will be subject to disconnection and late fees.
According to Larison, this does not eliminate customers from contacting the utility department to make arrangements on current bills.
Larison also said the city’s Emergency Utility Account Relief Program is still available to customers. The applications can be requested by postal mail, pick-up or downloaded online. Any customer that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen a loss of income can apply to get their past due amounts resolved.
Citizens also have other programs available such as the City of Lockhart’s Good Neighbor Program and Community Action Utility Relief that accept applications and review all applicants.
Lockhart Mayor Lew White said the measure is a necessary step forward.
“We all know people are still suffering, but I think this is a reasonable policy to reinstate, giving people an opportunity to make an arrangement and try and get this resolved,” said White.
According to the city’s website, late-fees can be assessed the day after a payment is missed, with disconnections following potentially four days later.
The city’s Utility Department can be reached at (512) 398-3461.
In other business, councilmembers unanimously approved a zoning change that will result in a phased, mixed-use development that will include commercial space, vacation rentals, apartments, and townhome condominiums to a property at 416 N. Church St.
According to Ramsey and Nicole Al-Rashid, much of the space will be offered as vacation rentals, which they said should help bring in potential tourism opportunities due the property’s proximity to the downtown square.
According to Ramsey, the idea to offer short-term rental fell in line after they accidentally stumbled upon the property.
“We came across this property on accident,” said Ramsey. “We were looking at an another property nearby and just thought, man this please is great.
“We thought what the best thing we can do here and our team … and came up with this concept of being able to have people come to places to stay that are a little different than what they currently have in the Lockhart area.”
Nicole, who grew up in Luling, said Lockhart has always been near to her heart, so she was pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for others to visit, as well.
“Lockhart has always been a spot that we loved and visited often,” said Nicole.
“We want to offer a place for people to stay and have an experience and really be brought in … We want to offer that experience to them.”
District 3 councilmember Kara McGregor touted the proposed development.
“I appreciate your vision,” said McGregor. “I’ve been tromping down around there for 15 years with my then toddler daughter and I’ve been obsessed with what could happen here.
“I’m looking forward to possibilities.”
Councilmembers approved the zoning change unanimously.