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Rochester’s Public Utility Board unanimously agreed Monday to suspend water and electric service shut-offs.

“I think this is really the responsible thing to do,” said board member Brett Gorden.

The decision suspends disconnections until the end of the Minnesota’s peacetime emergency, which Gov. Tim Walz declared on March 13.

Rochester Public Utilities General Manager Mark Kotschevar said the initial proposal was solely for homes, but he suggested extending it to commercial service after the governor ordered some businesses to close or stop operating as normal.

“We’re trying to do what we can to get the community through this,” he said.

The board also gave Kotschevar the authority to make temporary revisions to billing policies, which will provide flexibility for setting up payment plans once the emergency order is lifted.

Kotschevar said RPU staff will work with homeowners and businesses to set up payment plans as soon as possible.

Additionally, he said staff will closely monitor the impacts to the RPU budget and report back to the board.

As of Tuesday, approximately a third of the RPU staff was working from home, according to Kotschevar.

“The rest of us are practicing social distancing in the building and being aware of that,” he said, noting the building is closed to the public.

Additionally, he said non-essential service calls have been put on hold.

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