Archived Story

Franklin residents voice concerns over escalating utility bills

Published 11:05am Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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

FRANKLIN— Sylvia Lankford questions if electric meters are being read incorrectly or if there are two separate electric rates in Franklin.

“This is ridiculous,” said Lankford, who paid $997 in utilities for February and March. “I have a friend living on the north side of town yet they only pay $197 a month.”

Utility rates do not vary for different areas of the city, noted Franklin City Manager Randy Martin. Franklin does vary its rates to all customers during 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 to our citizens during the winter months,” Martin said.

City Council is planning a work session to demonstrate to citizens how meters are read in the city and other concerns associated with utility bills said Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn.

“At that work session we will also give information on the financial programs we have in the city,” she said.

Johnson-Ashburn encourages citizens to contact Martin in the meantime.

“We understand everyone’s situation is different and that is why we urge everyone to express their concerns to Martin,” she said. “I would like specific results from Mr. Martin at the next scheduled meeting.”

The Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group presented council with a petition that began circulating during the group’s first meeting on Feb. 25 asking for the investigation.

Martin is interested in meeting with individual customers about their concerns.

“I want to hear these specific citizens concerns because everyone’s situation is different,” Martin said. “I am here to be fair and equitable to all our citizens and customers. We want to help answer all citizen concerns as well as look at the collective issue.”

Citizen group spokesperson Dr. Lynwood Johnson reiterated Lankford’s concerns about improper meter reading during City Council’s Monday meeting.

“Our citizens are in a tough economic situation,” Johnson said. “This situation is too devastating. The average annual income on the Southside is only $19,000, we want an investigation on this so as to work with the city.”

Johnson gave city council an example of a family living on Hall Street whose bills between December and March rose from $262.51 to $486.99.

“The husband works out of town and a second job in town while the wife works in town, they are hardly at home,” Johnson said. “Basically the bill has escalated and that is a concern for all the citizens here tonight.”

The citizens group wants to work cooperatively with the city to find answers, Johnson noted.

“This is something that needs to be worked out,” Johnson said. “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. “As well as Mark Bly’s office about a home energy audit.”

Energy audits involve going into a home to check the condition of the home insulation and the heating and air unit.

“We do a write up to show citizens where energy is being lost in their home,” Bly said. “This service does not cost the citizen anything and anyone in the city can have one performed.”

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