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Copan residents fear they won't make stricter utility deadlines as city aims to recover from debt

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Posted at 4:54 PM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 17:54:55-05

COPAN, Okla. -- Stanley Morris works three days a week, and largely relies on social security.

He depends on paying utilities after getting paid on the third. The Copan homeowner was caught off guard on Nov. 1.

"One was over here at the gas meter turning it off, and they'd already turned off my water. There was no knock on the door saying "hey we're going to turn off your utilities" or anything like that. They just came and done it," Morris said.

After reviewing old bills, Morris realized he was given 60-days notice, and he worked with the city to create a plan to pay bills on the third.

Morris believes a grace period should be built in, and shouldn't require a special request.

"They don't have anybody on call to do it. If you need your electricity or whatever turned on in a hurry they have nobody to come by and do that," he said.

Morris worries about his neighbors and his own family as the weather gets colder.

"Just like you can't send your kids to bed hungry all the time, you sure can't expect them to freeze all the time," he said.

Former mayor Deborah Smith said with debt piling up, the city can't afford to be lenient any longer.

"A lot of them are renters. They move in, they run up two or three months of utilities and then they leave and the homeowner is not responsible and then they rent it out to somebody else and it happens again," Smith said.

According to Copan's city manager, the backlog for utility debt is about $75,000. Until now, there has never been an enforceable system, with shut offs sometimes happening 90 days after due payments.

"A couple people got caught up in this that are good, regular payers. And I blew it by not scrutinizing the list that was sent out to cut off. But on the other hand they had 60-day notices," Pete Elkins said.

The city said they will help with payment plans, but it's up to customers to contact them.

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