Archived Story

Utility customers get answers

Published 11:00am Saturday, March 16, 2013

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

FRANKLIN—Since meeting directly with citizens after Monday’s Franklin City Council meeting, City Manager Randy Martin has helped some of them discover the culprits behind their escalating utility bills.

“We have found no malfunction technology, as far as our meters. They are working properly,” he said.

However, Martin did find, while working with one customer who voiced her concerns during Monday’s meeting, a malfunctioning heating unit.

“The malfunctioning heating unit caused an inflated usage. Her monthly power consumption was around 3,800, according to her last utility bill” he said.

The average monthly kilowatt usage of a residence in the City of Franklin is around 1,300.

“It is because of situations like this that I want to hear specific citizens’ concerns, because each situation is different,” Martin said. “It is imperative that individuals voice their concerns of elevated usage.”

Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn requests that citizens bring their individual concerns to City Hall.

“We want to give attention to each individual person’s concerns,” Johnson-Ashburn said. “The more people come to us with those concerns, the better our research can go into helping everyone.”

No request or concern will be ignored, she noted.

“City staff is working diligently to find answers for our citizens,” Johnson-Ashburn continued. “We are moving and progressing to answer concerns, but we ask for patience and time to conduct all the necessary research.”

The Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group, who presented their concerns by asking city council for an investigation into the high utility rates Monday, does not want the issue swept under the rug said Dr. Lynwood Johnson, group spokesperson.

“We have people on fixed incomes that have bills escalating beyond their incomes,” he said. “We want answers as to why the rates are fluctuating so much. This is not just a Southside issue this is a city-wide issue.”

Franklin Utility rates do not vary in different areas of the city, but they do vary 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 explained.

City leaders plan to have a demonstration to show citizens how meters are read and address other concerns associated with utility bills Martin noted.

“I will be contacting members of the citizen group about setting up a demonstration as well as demonstrations to council members,” he said.

Johnson notes the citizen’s group is planning to take part in the meter reading demonstration.

“But at the same time, the bills are too high and we need a solution,” he said. “The citizens need a quick solution. They feel such a burden.”

Martin will report his findings from the energy audits and other citizen complaints during the March 25 City Council meeting.

“Hopefully through this entire process we can educate citizens on the electric process, as well as find ways of lowering their electric consumption,” Martin said.

  • toka

    It’s strange to see that the City of Franklin own the light company…….Only in Franklin…that’s probably the reason WHY its NOT considered as one of Hampton Roads desired cities to live in….LOL it’s funny to read people post your city is horrible and it stinks……

    Suggest Removal

    • employee2

      It is considered a “Municipal Electric”, and there are several throughout the state. Look up VMEA on google. There are several cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia that have the same deal. Harrisonburg, Manassas, Culpeper, Salem included.

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  • TaxMax

    There are two problems that exist here. First, someone should investigate who owns these houses. This would provide insight as to whether the homeowner has neglected their houses over the years causing these higher utility bills. Or is the landlord responsible for not maintaining the property, causing the higher light bills. If this is the case, expose these people and maybe that would make them make the effort to fix these problems.

    The second problem is that people turn their thermostats up way too high. They need to set the thermostat at no more than 72 and wear comparable clothing, not 78 and walk around in light clothing if they are cold. I know during the summer that I can’t turn my air conditioning on 68 and not expect a high power bill. Thus I have to set it on 72 and wear comparable clothing as not to sweat!

    If I choose to do that I am not going to blame the power company because my bill is higher than usual.

    And McLemore’s statement last night to the city council is absurd. Can the same be said when I go out to dinner with my family and handed a bill for $70.00??? Should I tell the proprieter that he can’t expect me to pay the bill I am given. That I am on a fixed income. Etc. But most of the people complaining elected him and gave him a standing ovation. SMH

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    • Greg McLemore

      Franklin is a GREAT City despite Councilman McLemore, that’s why people have been on long waiting list to move to Franklin. Also it’s almost impossible to find empty retail space or empty large building space in Franklin. Shoneys , Capt.D’s, Red Lobster, Long John Silver, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, Office Max, Best Buy, Aamco, jiffy lube, Pet smart, Golden Coral, Home depot and I could name dozens of more national chains that are begging to locate to your good ole Franklin. Oops I forgot, those companies are not coming to Franklin because of McLemore and those uneducated people complaining on the Southside about utility bills and not getting enough handouts. Thanks for reminding me why this City is still in decline. Its the Southside people and Obama’s fault, isn’t it always? We should just get rid of them all, no we need them to justify our failures and violent culture. Didn’t those kind of people teach us how to be violent?

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      • Greg McLemore

        oops, I forgot Papa Johns Pizza and, I know I’m dreaming charlie but, HOW ABOYT A MOVIE THEATER lol, hey I know what, you name some more companies that are waiting to move to franklin? It could be fun, it’s great to dream but the reality is you believe those chains plan on coming to Franklin as much as you plan on having a solar city. Don’t stop dreaming though lol

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      • TaxMax

        The only people on a long waiting list are the ones for public housing… And didn’t you promise your voters all those types of companies would move here…

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  • employee2

    I also find it interesting that several people that voted in the poll, voted “unfair rates”? How can they be unfair if they are the same for EVERYONE!

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  • workingtodamill

    Also the city rates are lower than Dominions rates.

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  • workingtodamill

    It is good of the city to provide this service and help the customer out, but here are some other thoughts. Why is it that the first thing people on the “south side” of the city think is someone is out to get them?? And yes I grew up on the south side. Also, how many of these people own and how many rent?? If you rent it is up to the owner/manager to fix. if something is broken. What is the insulation factor of the houses?? If you are going to try to compare your bill with someone from the north side, you can’t compare a brick house built in the 70′s thru the 90′s to a shack built in the 30′s no matter where the 2 houses are in the city. Just some thoughts.

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    • concernedcitizen

      @workingtodamill very well said

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    • handkusp45

      So our mayor thinks my taxes paid to the city should be used to find out why someones old heating unit is causing them to have higher electric bills? This is just another case of the entitlement mentality. The government has to provide for every need of the people who don’t make their own living. Oh Brother! I had to pay a HVAC company to find out what was wrong with my heat/ac and fix it. I should have gotten the city to figure it out for me for free.

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  • FromHere

    Your electricity provided will come and troubleshoot and help you determine your “power eaters”. Does not the City of Franklin have a power company?

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  • skooch

    bobs94: You are right on! it should not be the City’s responsibility to figure out why you used 3800kwh more this month than last. You should be smart enough to figure out something is wrong and get to the source yourself.

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  • bobs94

    I can read just fine and nowhere did I say the city was replacing anything. I said it was not the city’s responsibility to troubleshoot the problem. City employees are paid from taxpayer money. When city employees are used to do anything it costs taxpayer money.

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  • mbrya023

    They didn’t say they were going to replace anything. They are just trying to help the citizens of Franklin address issues that they have with their heating bills. I, for one, say kudos to those with the City who are going the extra mile! You will never please everyone!

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  • bobs94

    So let me get this straight. If a citizen has a concern about their electric bill they should contact city council? That’s just plain stupid, which is not surprising since the city has one of the poorest performing schools in the state. It’s not the city that should be figuring out the obvious, that the southside of Franklin has old houses with old heating units. Fixed income or not, if your heater needs to be replaced then it is your responsibilty to do it. Or get your church to do it. It’s not the taxpayers problem.

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    • spider68

      bobs94, Did you read the same article that others read? Nothing was said about anyone using tax money to replace anyones heaters.

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