LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Copperas Cove City Council on Tuesday discussed various ways to help residents who suffered financial losses during last month’s winter storm due to power outages, water line breaks, and excess water usage.

City Manager Ryan Haverlah told the council that there are a number of local and state programs in place for assistance with damage and related repairs from the extreme freezing temperatures.

The city is waiving any late fees or other penalties for utility bills that were due during the storm, and also waiving permit fees for storm-related plumbing repairs. Also, customers who experienced water leaks will not face additional charges related to sewer service.

“Right now, if a customer has a leak, and they repair that leak and provide documentation to the utility admin. department, we do not charge for any of the sewer charges that would be related to that leak,” Haverlah said. “In addition to that, we can work with customers and provide payment plans in the event that they have substantially large usage.”

The city has received a number of inquiries, officials said, about consideration for excess water usage stemming from the need to leave faucets dripping continually during the storm to try and prevent pipes freezing and bursting.

Mayor Bradi Diaz said — and council members agreed — that although the city recommended residents drip their faucets to try and prevent freeze damage, doing so is a common precaution during harsh weather conditions and falls under the responsibility of homeowners to protect their homes and prevent costly repairs.

Along with waiving late-payment charges and plumbing repair permits, residents can submit claims with their insurance company, Haverlah said, and even seek compensation for food that spoiled due to ongoing electrical service outages.

“There are ways many of our residents can seek assistance with the damages they’ve had,” he said. “If they have homeowner or rental insurance, they can work with their insurance company to submit claims. One of our employees informed me that you can submit an insurance claim for spoiled food because electricity was off.

“Texas Health and Human Services is also providing SNAP benefits for food that went bad. FEMA has a website called disasterassistance.gov, and anybody can go onto that website and search for benefits.

Council members also applauded the efforts of city employees who worked tirelessly during the crippling storm, sanding city streets, helping shut off water to homes with burst pipes, and other emergency measures.

“The city provided a number of additional services,” Haverlah said. “Our solid waste department staged a roll-off dumpster in Towne Square so that trash could be collected. They did that three days in a row, and the dumpster they took out there was full every day.

“Our water distribution department — in addition to the utility administration department; development services; inspectors — coordinated emergency water cutoffs. If somebody’s pipes broke, all those staff members coordinated to race around town to turn off those valves. We had 250 to 270 emergency water cutoffs during the winter storm. That was all hours of the day. We got calls late at night, and it’s not just residential properties. The street department did a great job of putting out sand and gravel on roadways over and over again.”

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