- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

BELHAVEN, N.C. (AP) - Officials in a rural North Carolina town that fought to reopen a closed hospital face scolding for failing to cut off electricity, water, sewer and garbage disposal service to residents who didn’t pay bills.

State Auditor Beth Wood’s office said Thursday that Belhaven’s former town manager chose not to follow town policy to stop service despite more than $600,000 overdue, and the mayor and town council knew about it.

The report says Belhaven officials decided not to act because they hoped utility customers would bounce back along with the depressed local economy, while other residents struggled with big medical bills. Town officials told auditors they didn’t write off uncollectable utility bills to avoid negative publicity.

Belhaven’s mayor has fought to reopen the coastal town’s hospital since it closed in 2014.

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