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LaGrange City hall opens its doors to public

LaGrange City Hall is open to the public once again.

Although city employees have been conducting business within the city hall building, Thursday was the first day it’s been open since March 17. LaGrange City Manager Meg Kelsey said even though the doors are open, employees are still taking precautions.

“We want the citizens to know that we are still concerned and want to limit the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “So, we are asking that you continue to try as much as possible to use the phone or email to contact us.”

Kelsey said if residents need to enter city hall to conduct business, the doors will be open. She said accommodations had been made within the building to protect employees as well as citizens. She said the city is requesting residents and staff to wear masks when conducting business face-to-face, and most city employees have protective Plexiglas shields to protect them and residents.

“But, we do believe masks are still important,” Kelsey said.

A sign is posted at the front of city hall reminding residents of a few rules before entering the building. Those rules involved staying six-feet apart to practice social distances, not entering the facility if they are sick, and also reminds residents of the ability to pay bills online.

The LaGrange City Council has also lifted its moratorium on utility disconnection beginning June 1.

Based on a discussion Tuesday by the council, city customers can expect to receive an automated phone call or email from the city before being disconnected, advising them that they have two days to set up a payment plan.

If the customer does not contact the city, the customer’s utilities will be disconnected, according to a later news release by the city.

Customer service representatives are available to work out payment arrangements for up to six months to pay unpaid past due amounts.

The current bill, any deposits owed, and one-sixth of the past due amount must be paid upfront to qualify for a payment plan.

These unpaid bills will not accrue late fees. However, current bills not paid on time will be charged a late fee.

On Tuesday, the council modified the payment plan from three months to six months. LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said several residents had fallen behind on utility payments due to unforeseen circumstances with COVID-19.

“We want to be fair and reasonable with that and be understanding of what people have gone through,” Thornton said. 

He said it’s a situation where several people have suffered through this crisis and need help.

“Those people need some relief, and we are going to get paid back. I don’t mind getting paid back over time,” Thornton said. “The last thing I want to do is turn off somebody’s utilities because that doesn’t do them any good, and it doesn’t do us any good.”