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Power disconnections in the village to begin as lengthy moratorium ends
In Muscoda

MUSCODA - Disconnection notices, future plans and finished projects were all topics of discussion at the monthly meeting for the Muscoda Village Board, last Tuesday March 9. 

It was shared with the board that what would be the ending of the normal energy moratorium in Wisconsin is quickly approaching. 

On April 15, 2021, utility providers like the Village of Muscoda will begin disconnecting those with overdue payments, marking the end of the moratorium. 

“A normal moratorium would last from November 15 to April 15,” Shared Jim Schwingle, PSC, CEM, Senior Energy Services Manager, who serves Boscobel, Muscoda, Richland Center and Westby through WPPI Energy.  “Residential customers may decide they cant or wont pay during that time. But with COVID, the time period has been extended multiple times. That means from November 2019 until April 2021, customers could have not paid the whole time. It is currently looking like the PSC (Wisconsin Public Service Commission) will allow the disconnections to go forward on April 15.” 

Muscoda Utilities filed with the PSC that they would plan to follow their regular policy. 

The Policy states “The Utility shall offer deferred payment agreements (DPA) to residential accounts and may offer such agreements to other customers. A DPA requires a 50 percent down payment of the past due amount. The remainder balance is split in installments for the next three billing cycles, due along with current monthly charges. If the DPA terms are not met the total arrears balance is due immediately. Due to the pandemic, the installments can be adjusted for an additional three months. According to the tariff rate, the utility will not offer a deferred payment agreement to a residential customer who is a tenant if any of the following criteria applies:

1) The residential tenant has a greater than $100 of account in arrearage that are more than 90 days past due for utilities that bill monthly; or for utilities that do not bill monthly has greater than $100 for account arreages that are past due for more than two billing cycles. 

2) The tenant has defaulted on a deferred payment agreement in the past 12 months. This criterion only applied to deferred payment agreements and not to other types of payment extensions or agreements.

3) The residential tenant is responsible for account arrearages,that were placed on any property owner’s tax bill in  the utility’s service territory in the past 24 months.

4) The residential tenant has a balance that accrued during the winter moratorium that is more than 80 days past due. 

“Muscoda Utilities will make every effort to contact accounts in arrears and to work with customers to bring delinquent accounts up to date,” the plan concluded. 

“Wanted to let you know that we do have residential people who haven’t paid since November 2019,” Village Clerk Cinda Johnson shared. “Some of the bills are $2,500 for some individuals. Overall the village is $55,000 delinquent in utility. There are a lot of programs out there and people need to pay attention that these are available. We feel bad for people but we still need to operate.” 

Bart Nies from Delta 3 was also on hand for the monthly meeting. 

The meeting opened up with Nies giving a report on the Municipal Well #4 project as part of the requirements of the grant funding that it received. 

In the presentation Neis shared with the board that the final cost for the project would be $1,373,000. With that $876,000 was paid by Community Development Block Grant funds and $848,000 resulting in a total of 86 percent of the project being paid for by grant monies. Nies also added that the remainder of the project was paid for with a low interest loan from the Department of Natural Resources. 

“They’re( The DNR) basically giving away money to finish this project,” Nies said. 

As one project looks towards wrapping up the next phase of projects for Muscoda were also discussed. 

Nies explained that the board typically updates their Capital Improvements Plan every five years, and that the list is coming due for update soon. 

Johnson, Nies, and Director of Public Works Troy Wardell had met to discuss what they thought the priority public works projects in the village might be. 

The top two the group came up with were the Iowa/Elm Street reconstruction and disassembling the old water tower and building a new one near the new well. 

Nies explained that if the board were to choose the water tower project as their next to tackle, it would likely be a three year project opposed to the typical two year timeline. 

It was also added that although both projects could and will be quite expensive, that 80 percent or more of the costs could be covered by CDBG and DNR Grant monies. 

“My personal feeling is that the water tower is more important at this time than Iowa Street,” Village President Dorothy Hackle expressed. Murmurs of agreement followed this statement from the rest of the trustees. 

“We need to keep movin’” Hackle went on to say. “We’ve been talking about this water tower ever since I’ve been on the board.”

It was agreed by the board to  start the process for CDBG funding for the water tower project.