Archived Story

Franklin city manager gives report on investigation

Published 9:34am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

FRANKLIN—Franklin’s City Manager Randy Martin updated those in attendance at Monday’s City Council meeting about the utilities billing audit thus far — noting it is far from complete.

“It is my intention to do further evaluation and outreach to customers, with reporting of additional findings going forward,” Martin said. “I and the Staff stand ready to continue to address customer concerns and report outcomes.”

“When we left the last meeting, we said this investigative process would not stop and it is not going to stop,” said Franklin Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn.

Johnson-Ashburn continues to encourage concerned citizens to bring their concerns to City Hall.

“It is extremely important for each citizen to bring their individual concerns to city staff directly,” she said. “There is a process to collect the data needed — we need individual input to aid in our research. Individual situations do matter.”

She continued, “We have asked for a third-party verification on the equipment. We want someone that is neutral to come in and look at our equipment.”

Martin stated the city has had 33 meter complaints and each one was investigated. There were no discrepancies found during the rereads of any of the 33 meters. He learned some of those residents unknowingly had their emergency heat system on, which uses a significant amount of energy.

“This taxes the system and results in elevated electricity usage,” Martin said. “Electric strip heat is very inefficient and only designed for true emergency or temporary use. An analysis done by staff, utilizing 2013 data, is eye popping for this type of heat generation. Four very typical 1,500 watt electric baseboard units used to heat a four room residence and set at the higher setting on the thermostat for a total of six hours in a 24-hour period, would by themselves utilize approximately 6,480 kilowatts of energy and cost $695.66 in a month.”

Martin continued, “Some customers have admitted they sometimes supplement their heat utilizing open ovens and small portable space heaters. This is a very expensive way to stay warm.”

Upgrading the primary heating source, completing weatherization measures and proper maintenance required prior to seasonal temperature changes, can help to reduce bills.

Martin also compared seasonal graphs to overall usage, noting the cold winter this year corresponds with higher utility bills.

“A pattern clearly shows a direct correlation to the seasonal fluctuations in outside temperature readings over the last three winter seasons,” Martin said. “This pattern was validated by comparing the available temperature readings for the corresponding three winter seasons beginning in fall, 2010 to present.”

Temperature analysis documents that the 2012-13 winter is the most severe of the three previous years. The 2011-12 winter, by contrast, is among the warmest on record and milder than the other two years analyzed.

“The billing data analyzed verifies that the utility bills generally reflect the same pattern of fluctuations as the weather, with very few exceptions,” Martin said.

He also said complainants typically have higher meter recordings than the average resident, and some are as much as 75 percent higher. He said lower income housing in the city is not typically energy efficient.

“I have collected additional valuable data, when available, on their homes from other sources for a number of the customer accounts analyzed,” Martin said. “This includes information on year constructed, square footage and most importantly the type of heating source utilized. This information has significant impact on electric usage because the age of the home, its condition (particularly the amount of insulation and weatherization), the size and the heating source in great measure determine the energy efficiency of the residence.”

Martin noted the city is committed to helping income-qualifying homeowners and renters receive assistance during extreme weather conditions.

“With the help of the Department of Social Services and other philanthropic organizations, approximately 1,448 city customers requested financial assistance to help pay city electric bills for heating and cooling assistance and other emergency assistance this past year,” he said.

Social Services provided a total $330,010.79 in customer utility assistance for 2012. In total Franklin received assistance for 1,645 customers this year totaling $344,170.88 in financial assistance from all services including Social Services, Salvation Army, Cooperative Ministries and local Churches.

“The City is also committed to pursuing available financial assistance programs to help complete improvements to substandard housing and weatherization programs to improve energy efficiency and as necessary enforce minimum housing codes to protect tenant interests and well-being,” Martin stated.

To also assist in this effort to help residents, the Franklin Department of Power & Light has a guide to saving energy titled “Energy Matters in Your Home”.

“I encourage customers to contact the office for this information and to inquire or schedule a home energy analysis,” Martin said. “I implore each of our customers to become as informed as possible and manage your energy usage wisely. Neither the customer nor the City gains from wasted energy.”

  • RACN35

    remember 4 years ago when that woman danced around the trailor park and shouted OBAMA is gonna make my trailor payment … whoop whoop … cant uy any ammo at wally word either can you … DID YOU VOTE ?

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  • RACN35

    Martin stated the city has had 33 meter complaints and each one was investigated. There were no discrepancies found during the rereads of any of the 33 meters. He learned some of those residents unknowingly had their emergency heat system on, which uses a significant amount of energy.

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  • skooch

    Well put Masknup you are right on!

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  • Masknup

    There is not a better and bigger example of what happens when the government is unable to to take care of those it has supported forever through transportation, housing, food, programs, education, etc.

    EXAMPLE:
    Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, Louisiana. August 2005.

    Remember how George W. Bush got ALL the blame? Mayor Ray Nagin (a democrat) didn’t. Neither did the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Blanco (a democrat). They took much less blame than they should have really gotten. It was THEIR CITY AND STATE! They failed! But George W. Bush got 98% of the blame. Why? You ask? Because NO ONE including George W. Bush himself had the guts to stand up and say what the real reasons were behind the cesspool left in New Orleans after Katrina. NO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Those left behind in the path of the storm in New Orleans knew the GOVERNMENT would handle every need. It always had! And guess what….it couldn’t. And we know the rest of that story.

    While I firmly agree with everyone in this article that are tired of supporting those who choose not to support themselves, I ask a simple question…

    When are WE as Americans going to stand up and DEMAND that our government stop doing the things it does to waste money, and perpetuate laziness???

    It is time for a revolution in this country. It is PAST TIME for WE as ordinary citizens to get our act together and be united against our government that has gotten completely out of control. It is our duty. It is our country. It is time to fight for what is right and the hell if we are called a “racist” or a “tea-partier”.

    We must stand for common sense and fiscal responsibility. It is time that those who represent us in government get that message loud and clear. We need to have the guts to say what needs to be be said. We as a country have become complacent, and somewhat scared to stand up for what is right our of fear of being “labeled”.

    I say bring it on, maybe more will like wearing a label that says “I have the guts” do you?

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  • handkusp45

    I thought Mr. Martin did an outstanding job of addressing this issue. He laid out the facts in a very plain and simple matter. The bottom line is that all the cases looked at so far prove that the meter reading is correct and the real issue is the condition or power consumption within the home. In other words the people complaining the most are the ones who use the most electricity. Wow, that is astonishing! All that the production put on Monday night accomplished was to further the belief that a certain demographic portion of this city wants something for nothing. I know their are exceptions to my comments that are to follow. There are people who have situations beyond their control that put them in need of help. But , Folks, this is the good ‘ole US of A. If you can’t make it here, if you can’t provide for you and your family in this country, where in the world could you make it? (again, I’m not talking about people who have extrordinary circumstances) From the time you are born the government will feed, cloth and shelter you. They give you a free education with free lunches. They will provide your health care and even a cell phone. What else do you want? Enough is enough! I’m tired of paying unwed mothers to have children and then my tax money paying to raise them. There I said it!

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    • gd12620

      I agree completely. I am tired of working hard for every penny I earn while some sit around all day or hang out on the street corner collecting government handouts.

      I wonder how many people know that social services also pays their court fines for them and their DMV reinstatment fee if their license is suspended AND pays their utility bills. I am not opposed to government help if you are only using it to get you on your feet so you can support yourself… but it is sickening the number of people who just take, take, take and expect to have their way paid by someone else.

      My bills have gone up this winter, and I have Dominion. You don’t see me marching down there demanding something be done about it. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t because I have a JOB to go to everyday.

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  • curious

    Basic math:
    Constant: thermostat set at 70 degrees.
    Outside temp:
    60 degrees…60-70=-10 little heat exchange.
    50 degrees…50-70=-20 minimal to little heat exchange.
    40 degrees…40-70=-30 minimal to moderate heat exchange.
    30 degrees…30-70=-40 moderate to severe heat exchange.

    Common sense is not dead, but apparently is in ICU.

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  • skooch

    They don’t care what caused the high bills, they just want someone else to pay them.

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    • bigred01

      We are not asking anyone to pay our bill. I have worked on my job in the City of Franklin for 24 years, my husband has retired after 43 years at Newport News Shipbuilding. We have put 2 children through college. We pay our own bills, and never had a reason to ask for a handout. We just want to know why the bills are increasing. Thank you very much.

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      • bobs94

        Are you satisfied with the answers you got? It would have been much easier to call a HVAC mechanic.

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      • TaxMax

        Someone on another thread reported that they looked at their last year’s bill and compared it to this year for the same time frame and their bill was only a little more. Obviously those who are experiencing higher bills are turning their thermostat up higher or have some sort of heat loss in their houses causing the heat to run longer. As the city manager said, it is not a city problem, it is a resident problem.

        My parents are both retired and on a fixed income, but they saved and saved and saved for the last 44+ years. Growing up we ate out probably 5 times in my 18 years in the home because they felt it was a waste of money, now they live comfortably.

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      • localcitizen

        Then perhaps you should’ve called an HVAC company to come to your home and see where any energy losses are located.. Instead of complaining to and/or blaming Franklin Power and Light. They charge based on what you use. It is up to YOU to either figure out where energy is being wasted or cut back on your usage. Our economy has caused the price of many things to go up. Do you think electricity is exempt from that?

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  • 23851

    It has effected everyone in the city. Rates have gone up for everyone. Not just here in the city of Franklin. We have to pay for ObamaCare somehow.

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  • John VanChocStraw

    You’re a good man, Randy Martin!

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