Thursday, June 14, 2012
HSUD to offer Plus-1
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Utility Department is expected to roll out its Plus-1 program by mid-summer.
The program would allow utility customers to donate a dollar or more each month to a fund that would be used to help customers who are in arrears pay their bill.
Sherhonda Barksdale, customer service representative, and D. Miller, office manager with HSUD, are setting up the service and all that is lacking is advertising to let customers know they can contribute to help their neighbor or fellow man, Miller said.
Barksdale said she learned more about how utilities are helping their customers at a class she attended.
“Some want to give back and everyone benefits,” Barksdale said during a recent board of aldermen meeting. “It helps the less fortunate to keep cool in summer and warmer in winter.”
A customer can discontinue their monthly donation at any time, she said.
“It is something we can implement to help us (HSUD) and to help them (customers),” Barksdale said. “On a daily basis sometimes over 50 customers are cut off.”
The utility would also offer classes for those who receive assistance or have trouble paying their bill, she said.
Don Hollingsworth, general manager of HSUD, recommended Catholic Social Services, which has experience with these type programs, could help HSUD customers in arrears on their bills to get relief by applying with CSS for help. HSUD would collect the customer donations and put them in a fund to be used for that purpose.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry applauded HSUD for bringing this program to the utility. He suggested CREATE Foundation could be used to cashier the money and CSS could decide who needs and qualifies for help.
Hollingsworth said area churches could also collect donations.
DeBerry agreed that churches could also raise donations for the Plus-1 fund.
“We don’t want to know who is getting help,” the mayor said, meaning the city employees and HSUD itself.
CREATE could hold the money and CSS could make decisions on who is most needy, Hollingsworth agreed.
“I applaud your group,” said the mayor. “This is a major first step.”
HSUD recently reported over $600,000 in uncollected utility bills and has been concerned about disconnect/reconnect of customers who are chronically delinquent in paying their utility bills.
With discussion completed, alderman Calvin James motioned to offer the program, alderman Harvey Payne seconded the motion, and it passed by unanimous vote of the board.
Miller said CSS already has a Plus-1 program with Entergy in Tunica County and has experience with administering such a program. HSUD already has the computer software to administer the program, she said. Customers would sign up with the utility to be billed an extra dollar or more and the donation would show up as a line item on the bill.
The only restriction, Miller said, is that the recipient would have to be an HSUD customer in order to receive funds.
“We just write a check to them (CSS) and they do what they do already,” Miller said.
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