Ridgecrest residents with past due utility bills have until May 25 to catch up or face services being cut off.

Mayor Veller Ray Carroll made the announcement at Ridgecrest’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

“There is no law that says we can’t cut them off,” Carroll said. “This was a courtesy from Ridgecrest.”

Before the due date, 24 customers will receive a call and letter from Ridgecrest officials reminding them of their bills, Carroll said. Town Hall office will be closed on May 25 in observance of Memorial Day but there is a drop box for payments by the front door.

“We cannot give water away,” Carroll said. “It is due now, and you have until the 25th to pay everything past due and get it up to date or you will be cutoff.”

On March 13, the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) issued an order to immediately stop disconnecting customers for non-payment of their bills. The order followed Gov. John Bel Edwards March 11 declaration of a public health emergency.

LPSC is an independent regulatory agency of public utilities and common carriers, but Ridgecrest utilities are regulated by local officials and thus are exempt from LPSC jurisdiction and the Edwards’ order.

The order covered only utilities regulated by LPSC, including Entergy, Cleco, SWEPCO, Louisiana’s rural electric cooperatives, Atmos Energy, AT&T, CenturyLink and a host of other for-profit companies.

It does not waive bills but merely postpones them until the emergency order is lifted.

It stated: “Given the severity of these events, and the uncertain impact it may have on Commission-jurisdictional ratepayers, immediate action is required to ensure utility service is not disconnected for non-payment.”

Meanwhile, work continues in preparation for Ridgecrest’s $990,352 Louisiana Community Development Block Grant (LCDBG).

“There is lots to be done,” Carroll said. “It won’t be long and we’ll get the plans to the state. This is a process, and it is not going to happen overnight. It is in the works.”

Money from the grant will be used to bypass Ridgecrest’s timeworn water plant and tie into Ferriday’s water system. Grant funding will bankroll sandblasting and cleaning of the interior and exterior of Ridgecrest’s water tower.

Money will also be used to purchase a new ground storage tank, install a water line from Ferriday’s water plant to Ridgecrest’s storage tank, purchase new radio-controlled water meters and install a handicap bathroom in city hall. The water line will run down Vidalia Drive.

Additionally, aldermen tabled a discussion about dog control until next month.

“We have an ordinance in place, and we need to abide by that ordinance,” Alderwoman Rita Boyler said. “Ordinance was passed…says no more than five dogs per household. There is no grandfather clause in that, so therefore we have to abide by the ordinance.”

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