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As many as 570 families in Huntsville have fallen behind on their water and sewage bills, threatening residents and their cities with severe financial hardship. 

The trouble stems from the widespread economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus, which has left thousands out of a job and struggling to cover their monthly costs. Together, they’ve been late or missed a total of $160,000 in utility payments between April 7 and the end of October, according to data released recently by the city.

In some cases, cities that own or operate their own utilities have been forced to absorb these losses. However, that could change in Huntsville after Tuesday.

In a regular session meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, the Huntsville City Council is expected to discuss an ordinance that would reinstate utility cutoffs, despite the city and county still being under a disaster declaration. The ordinance would take effect immediately. However, delinquent customers would be given until March 31, 2021 to get current.

“The economy in Huntsville is doing well with sales tax revenue as a primary indicator; from April 2020 through October 2020 Sales Tax revenue is up 9.1% compared to the same seven-month period in 2019,” city finance director Steve Ritter said in the notes for Tuesday’s meeting.

As of the end of October there were approximately 570 customers with an average delinquent balance of around $285.

The utility fund for the city of Huntsville has an annual revenue of approximately $30 million.

Other items up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting include:

• Approving contracts for a utility relocation project along Interstate 45, at the request of the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT will fund the utility relocation, while the city will be responsible for upgrades, totalling $674,000.

• Considering the purchase of 31 vehicles and pieces of equipment at a total cost of $1.79 million.

• Considering the purchase for furniture at the new police and fire stations.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Huntsville City Hall. A workshop will be held prior to the meeting at 5 p.m. on the feasibility study for the MLK Recreation Center. 

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