City now shutting off utilities for non-paying customers 

MARFA — The City of Marfa has begun disconnecting water, sewer and natural gas services for customers with past due accounts on a regular monthly basis for the first time since the pandemic.

The city reintroduced the practice in July in order to recoup incurred costs for providing utilities, said City Manager Mandy Roane. 

“We’re asking people to pay for services that we’ve provided because the water that comes to their house has already been treated, we take it through our sewer. That gas has already been purchased,” said Roane. 

Shutoffs were originally put on pause during the pandemic due to widespread economic hardship, then briefly resumed for select customers with large balances before the municipality switched to new billing software in the fall of 2022, at which time the policy once again lapsed.

“We quit doing shut offs again because we wanted to make sure we had everything absolutely perfect, that no one was accidentally getting the wrong bill, that people’s bills were arriving,” said Roane. “Because we had issues with the software and then the third-party company that we use to send out the bills.” 

Bills are due the 15th of every month, said Roane, and past-due notices are sent out on the 16th via mailed postcards or email notices. Once a past-due notice has been received, a customer has 10 days to pay or they will be subject to shut offs. Late penalties may also apply. 

Roane said payment plans — which typically involve a down payment of half of the outstanding balance in addition to ongoing monthly payments — are available. 

“We really do try to work with people to make sure that everything is taken care of,” said Roane. 

She was unaware of an exact dollar amount the city is hoping to recover, but said it has “made definite strides in collecting overdue fees” and less than a dozen homes were currently without utilities due to city shut offs, some of which were empty. 

But the enforcement has dealt a blow to some residents. This week, a GoFundMe was created for Marfa resident Rebecca Bersagel, who organizers say owes $15,000 in utility bills after falling on hard times, leading to city utility shutoffs. 

“Rebecca has been such a sweet friend to me over the years, and I know that if the positions were reversed she would do everything in her power to help me too!” wrote GoFundMe organizer Alexis Smith.

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