Archived Story

Residents seek answers regarding escalating utility bills

Published 11:51am Friday, March 8, 2013

BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
andrew.faison@tidewaternews.com

FRANKLIN—Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills is asking for an investigation of high utility bills on the southside of the City of Franklin, said Dr. Lynwood Johnson, group spokesperson.

“There seems to be from month-to-month a hike of anywhere from $100 to $200 on some individual’s bills,” Johnson said. “This is something that has been a problem on the southside for some people as long as 10 years.”

The group wants to know if the electric meters are bad or if they are possibly being misread.

The group will present a petition that began circulating during the group’s first meeting on Feb. 25, to City Council during the Monday, March 11 meeting.

Franklin City Manager Randy Martin is interested in meeting with the individual customers rather than getting a petition.

“I want to hear these concerns. We want to make sure our citizens are treated fairly and get answers they seek,” Martin said. “But everyone’s situation is different. There are many different factors as to why someone’s bill could fluctuate.”

The biggest contributors to higher energy bills are lack of proper insulation and old windows and doors that are not properly sealed, said Parker Darden, owner of Parker Darden Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.

“During the winter months, we get quite a few calls about bills going up,” Darden said. “If the insulation is not what needs to be, or just not there at all, the heat will just transfer right out of the home.”

When replacing heating and air units he uses an infrared camera to identify trouble spots to help customers reduce their bills.

“Every house has its own characteristics,” Darden said. “Each has its own variables that can cause a bill to go up more than another.”

One way to reduce an electric bill is to turn the thermostat down, Darden notes.

“This winter was a lot colder than last year, and if your heating unit is trying to keep the temperature at 80 it is going to constantly run,” he said. “If you cut it down to 67-72 it will drastically reduce your bill as the unit will use less energy to heat your home.”

There is no difference in the utility rates for different areas of Franklin, Martin notes. Franklin does vary its rates to its customers throughout the year, when a customer uses more than 800-kilowatt hours during October through May the rate is $0.07563 as compared to $0.10612 for June through September.

“Those rates are a way to level out the impact during the winter months,” he said.

If any citizen has questions Martin encourages them to contact City Hall or their local council representative.

Martin said similar concerns were brought up last year.

“During a ward meeting around election time last year there was a misunderstanding over utility bills,” Martin said. “The concern last year was over the escalating cost from the city’s provider.”

Johnson notes the group wants to take the right approach in handling the situation.

“The citizens are in a bad situation,” Johnson said. “We want to work with the city, but it is something that needs to be worked out. It is an incredible burden on the citizens, especially our senior citizens.”

The city does offer an assistance program for seniors and lower income residents.

“I encourage people to get in touch with staff about inquiring about those programs,” Martin said.

  • skooch

    Really? Is anyone actually believing this non-sense? This is just another senseless claim of the po Black man being discriminated against. All the puppets need to jump and find the guilty party and run them out of town.

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  • Councill

    At their Thursday, March 14, 2013, meeting, the Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills agreed to plan a boycott of the city’s electric department, and possibly city businesses as a means to protest the city council’s failure to address the community’s concerns regarding the electric bill problems.

    As of March 14, 2013, the Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills had around five hundred supporters.

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    • SandMan

      Well, “Doubting Thomas”, you should take the podium at the MLK Recreation Center and explain the meaning of “boycot” to the remaining 499 idiots!
      Boycot is not a makeshift bed for a male child!

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  • curious

    A little weather history:
    My reading dates for this month’s bill 1/25 to 2/25.
    Average high temp for this range 51 degrees.
    Average low temp for this range 31 degrees.
    Highest high temp 77 degrees 1/30.
    Lowest high temp 30 degrees 1/25.
    Lowest Low temp 15 degrees 1/25.
    Highest low temp 55 degrees 1/30.
    There were 19 days where the low temperature was 32 degrees or below.
    There were 3 days where the high tempurature was 65 or above.
    The above figures were obtained from The Weather Underground’s website.

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  • Saeit

    Really I do not know what the problem is. I lived in Franklin for years and I have recently moved to Suffolk, VA. My dominion power bill alone in Suffolk is over $200 a month and my water bill is over $200 every other month, whereas in Franklin everything combined was never over $200 a month (water, sewer, trash, and electric). I would love to move back and pay that utility bill there anytime!! Stop complaining!!!

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  • franklinsince50

    @beachgirl…what has the grass “canister” got to do with high electric bills?

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    • beachgirl

      Well franklinsince50 is it not part of the monthly bill with the electric and water???? Or so you get a special separate one??

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      • workingtodamill

        Your “green can” is picked up with the trash. Now you don’t have to put everything into the can. Per city code you can put your brush/bush trimmings into a pile and they will pick it up. Right off I don’t remember the size of the pile but 4x4x2 seems to ring a bell. Since it is picked up as trash it is the same bill.

        Suggest Removal

  • boomercitizen

    The only way I have been able to lower my electric bill is to turn off my heat pumps for some percentage of the day. Like the last 2 days they have been off all day and only turned on at night in case the temperature drops. If you turn them off 20% to 30% of the time, your bill will be lower by 20% to 30%. Yes I know the HVAC companies don’t recommend it by I’ve been doing this for years with no adverse affects to the units. I also like a cooler house and the thermostat is 67/68. I’d like it lower but my family would move out!
    While it may be worthwhile to see if we can get cheaper electricity (I doubt it), the Franklin Electric Department does a wonderful job of keeping our electric on when communities around us are without power for days. I think people forget there is a cost for that. I am sure we would be without power regularly and for days if we had to rely on Dominion Power to “get to our us”. Just ask the residents of Courtland.

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  • DryRain

    Honesty is the best policy! Dont say you keep your thermostat on 73 degrees when you know you don’t, don’t say you turn your heat off when you leave home, those meters don’t lie, people do!

    The white boy said he can’t buy groceries, looks like he eats good to me.

    Suggest Removal

  • DryRain

    Citizens’ time at the City Council meeting tonight should be interesting.

    Maybe T. Councill will be there with his idea that a Black Majority council will change the rules for the Blacks Majorities in Franklin now.

    Suggest Removal

  • barney1

    Present that to the black majority city council.

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  • barney1

    “There is no difference in the utility rates for different areas of Franklin, Martin notes”

    The only difference is the higher property values resulting in higher taxes that are paid by the north side of town.

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  • beachgirl

    I think that they need to pick up the grass canister twice a week during the spring and summer…that new canister they gave us does not hold much, especially when you had trimmings from hedges and weeds…

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  • happy2

    Not Just on the south side! My water has not been read in a long time. How do I know this? The grass has not moved above the meter, it is still grown over and in tact! Out electric has continued to rise above and beyond.

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    • employee2

      Water meters are read using “radio read”, they no longer have to remove the cover to read them.

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      • spider68

        employee2—This is a question that I have been wondering about in reference to these “radio reads”.
        Since you seem to be knowledgeable about these radio reads which I admit I am not. Does each meter, water and electric, have different frequencies or are all on the same frequency?

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      • spider68

        employee2—Further clarification—Does the meters for each home have different freqs?

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      • employee2

        They are on similar frequencies, with an electronic signature. The identifier can be seen on the electric meter near the bottom, it has a bar scan. Usually starts with a #05-…..
        The water is different, he has to place a probe in close proximity(on the top) of the meter enclosure.

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      • spider68

        Thanks for the info employee2. I just checked my meter and my identifier does not start with #05 but I do see the bar code. I also checked my utility bills for the past year, and I do not see that identifier on any of the bills, so I assume it is possible to read a different meter and assign it to my bill because of the similar frequencies.
        I simply have these questions but I have no problem with my utility bills. Within the last couple of years, I installed all new windows, doors, and added insulation, so my bill rarely gets very high.

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      • employee2

        I didn’t go into minute detail, but no your meter is your meter and they can’t be confused.

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      • spider68

        Okay employee2, thanks again.

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      • SandMan

        @Spider68…One time I saw McClenny checking your meter:)

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  • Typhoon

    Yes I have heard by the grapevine the elestric department has a person from out of town that goes around speeding up electric meters in certain parts of town and has been told not to touch any residents that are on City Council.

    Suggest Removal

    • employee2

      Better change grapevines, there is no such action going on.

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  • DryRain

    Some people just don’t want to admit they live in an old home, little if any insulation under the house, walls or attic. They probably don’t have thermopane windows, they live in a wooden home with heat coming out from every board that isn’t nailed down properly. Outside doors are old and probably missing the weather stripping around the edges. Their heat pump is old with a very low seer rating. And if the truth be known, their old out of date thermostats are set around 80 degrees during the winter time, plus they are using portable electric heaters in several areas of the home, not to mention the cooking stove as an extra heat source. They probably don’t realize one of the heating elements has probably burned out in their hot water heater causing the other heating element to run almost all the time also.

    So if a person from the south side could move their old home (with a new electric meter installed) to the north side of town and put it in a lot beside a newer home that is made out of brick, home is fully insulated, floors, walls and attic, the home has thermopane double glass windows and custom made outside doors, has a good roof with architectural style shingles, has programmable thermostat probably set near 70 degrees, new energy saving appliances, and a heat pump with a high seer rating. Do they really think that would help lower their utility bill? I think not.

    Complaining about your electric bill is not going to get it lowered. You have to make life style changes and home improvements to lower your bill.

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    • handkusp45

      We put in a heat pump with a high seer rating and installed new windows. We keep our themostat on 69 in the winter. And guess what? We reduced our energy cost. Suprise, surprise! It’s not rocket science, people.

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    • employee2

      Thanks for the dead on information/support. It seems everyone wants to put the blame on someone else. The city is not responsible how or how much you use. Would citizens be happy if they started restricting how much a customer could use in a month?

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  • employee2

    Waste of time, the meters are read every month on or about the 25th. My meter reading is always between morning reading and afternoon reading. I read my meter daily to head off any problems that may occur in my home(stuck HW heater thermostat, etc.). the calculations on the bill always matches the calculated value using an excel spreadsheet.

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  • Councill

    Come out and support Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills at the Monday, March 11 meeting city council meeting.

    Mayor Ashburn and Councilwoman Hilliard has let it be known that they will not take action unless they see people at the council meeting supporting this group.

    Tell your friends and neighbors to be at city hall a little before 7:00 p.m.

    This is the first time that this issue has been presented to a Black majority city council.

    With enough support in the council chambers this problem can be fixed Monday night.

    Suggest Removal

    • employee2

      What has the racial make-up of city council got to do with facts?

      Suggest Removal

  • beachgirl

    While looking at my bill,,,my power usage (on the meter numbers) is less than last month but I am paying more for it this month…but the water and sewer usage is still the same..

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  • happy2

    I have questioned the city before about my bill. It does not matter which side of town you live on. I personally believe that are not checking the meters! I know the water is not correct, mine has not been read in months the grass dead as it is, is covering it and it has for years. They use previous years readings and do drive by’s!

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    • workingtodamill

      That’s because it’s an electronic reader. All they have to do is ride by to read it. Same with both water and electric meters.

      Suggest Removal

  • Liberty With Responsibility

    I don’t know anywhere that I have lived that had a CHOICE on where to buy electricity. It has ALWAYS been a monopoly, everywhere I know of.

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  • olivia12

    Wow, the comments posted are sad because all residents of the City of Franklin have the right to ask questions and not all residents asking questions get fuel assistance. I have family members who live in Franklin that have taken preventive measures and their light bills have steadily increased. THEY DO NOT RECEIVE ASSISTANCE! They are hardworking individuals paying their tax dollars as required. Why does this happen, because there’s no competitive supplier of electric. Franklin will always be Franklin, file a petition and DEMAND answers! All are not ignorant just tired of being taken advantage of:(

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  • employee2

    The answer is contained within the image seen in the bathroom mirror.

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    Are we serious?! We actually had to tell people that if they turn down the thermomstat it would lower the electric bill? Are people that ignorant, really? This is pathetic. My t-stat has not read over 64 degrees this winter, and I work, and pay all my own bills. We pay 120-140 per month, because we want to save money. This is for a house with five people inside. People make their own choices, then complain they want fuel assistance. That’s wrong.

    Suggest Removal

    • SandMan

      yes Liberty…some people are THAT ignorant!!Sad,isn’t it?

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      • employee2

        Oh the stories I could tell in regards to this comment…agreed 100%.

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    • workingmom

      I don’t known about your bill. I turned off the ALL heat in my house but in one room, turned on gas fireplaces. Guess what Electric bill went up $50! How much lower can the thermostat go?

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      • DryRain

        @workingmom – If what you are saying is true, your water pipes would have froozen up and burst.

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    • banshee

      Has never read over 64 degrees, c’mon that’s not believable…the light bills are just like gas prices, they raise them to make money, not because your actually using more energy

      Suggest Removal

  • mule

    Someone should ask Martin why we have one of the highest rates for trash pickup on the East Coast. $44.00 is nuts for basically 6 cans a month.

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    • 087hunter

      yeah really….I have a friend that just complained that their monthly trash bill went up from $12 to $15 per month. If they can pay $15/month then why are we paying $44/month….ridiculous

      Suggest Removal

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