Residents seek answers regarding escalating utility billsPublished 11:51am Friday, March 8, 2013
BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
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.