Raymond Williams, left, and other members of the Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group, march at City Hall during a protest against rising utility costs, prior to Monday’s City Council meeting. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS
Raymond Williams, left, and other members of the Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group, march at City Hall during a protest against rising utility costs, prior to Monday’s City Council meeting. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS

Archived Story

Residents protest utility bills

Published 9:38am Wednesday, March 27, 2013

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

FRANKLIN—Dozens of Franklin residents showed up to protest high utility bills, prior to and during City Council meeting Monday.

“I went out of town to Germany for almost a month,” said Franklin resident Dan Taylor. “When I came back and got my bill for January, it was over $500. I am really concerned about what happened.”

Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group spokesperson Dr. Lynwood Johnson asked council to continue an investigation, he asked for during the March 11 council meeting, into improper meter readings or fluctuating rates for different parts of the city.

“We know this problem can be resolved so that it will never happen again,” Johnson said, during the citizens comment period. “We are counting on you to do the right thing, because we put you here to do it.

Johnson noted the problem is an emergency for the citizens of Franklin.

“We don’t need the problem drawn out,” Johnson said. “We need a quick fix. There are people that are out there hungry, they are struggling – there are whole families staying in one room to save money and that is not good.”

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

Franklin resident Michael Foreman also questions if electric meters are being read incorrectly or if they are malfunctioning.

“We sampled a group of 24 people, many of those people were using anywhere from 3,000 kilowatts to as much as 7,300 kilowatts a month,” Foreman said. “Every meter in the city should be checked, if we are paying $1 over what should be charged, that is $1 too much.”

Sabrina Wellington doesn’t understand why her bill has escalated.

“I have been in my house for 13 years – winterized my home with the help of the STOP organization, I use gas to heat my home,” Wellington said. “We just want you to help us find answers.”

“I am not going to let this go away,” she continued. “This isn’t going to be swept under the rug.”

Councilman Gregory McLemore also spoke during the citizens comment period, not as a councilman, but as a citizen stating he is a citizen first.

“When your light bill is more than your mortgage it is outrageous,” he said. “To me that is unacceptable.”

McLemore said he knows there are solutions to the issue.

“We do not have to continue to charge people for things they are not using,” he said. “The people can no longer afford to just give the city money. The people behind me know how to make a dollar out of .15 cents and this council can do the same thing if we make it our mission to lower these expenses.”

Some residents spoke of bills nearing $1,000 for one month of service.

“It’s not right to us people, some of them paying $900 – $1,000 light bills,” said Herman Parker. “It’s not fair to anybody. We are putting our foot down and saying we are not going to take it anymore.”

  • Liberty With Responsibility

    The problem today is this: The poor have the expectation that their lives should appear to their fellow citizens to be on the “middle class” level. WHO said that was right? We give them fake credit cards to “buy” (take) free food, we pay for or subsidize every need they have, we provide programs to send their kids to “summer camp,” we give them news Christmas toys and new coats, all this, while the REAL middle class people do without much of this, and buy their kids used clothes, toys, and shoes from CHKD! I know—I’ve been doing without for a decade, for my kids, but I’m taxed to just GIVE things to the lazy leeches among us.

    Suggest Removal

  • jacsprack

    I lived in Franklin for a few years and my utility bills very high, I took the proper steps to remedy the situation.It helped a little. I now live in Norfolk and my bill for 2 months is what my bill in Franklin was for one month. I don’t know why there is a difference it could be a number of reasons but i know race and what part of town you live on has nothing to do with it.

    Suggest Removal

  • Masknup

    After reading the posts below, I just have to say it. A Short Modern Day Civics lesson:

    We (WORKING MIDDLE CLASS AMERICAN TAXPAYERS BOTH BLACK AND WHITE) are tired of the same old “racial” B.S. line these people always trump out when they get caught in a quandry. They have no motivation to do the right thing, and rely on handouts to routinely bail them out. No wonder our government is broke. It is being run with the same mentality of people on both sides of the political aisle. The taxpayers are supporting these types of ignorant and lazy people that are continually being “dumbed down” in large part by the US Government and the Democratic Party.

    Political parasites like Obama, Bobby Scott, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louise Lucas, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe and other so-called “leaders” keep them as misinformed and educationally ignorant as possible to continually get their vote. It is a shame these people cannot stand up and think for themselves. They only have themselves and their so-called “leaders” to blame for their literal “slavery” to the government. It allows these so-called “leaders” to manipulate them thus,keeping them in power. This leads to outright corruption as well as a deterioration of our constitutional rights, by these “leaders” never ending need for power.

    As for the arguments of houses in Franklin being old and in disrepair causing the utility bill increase, MOVE! There is NO ONE forcing you to stay there, or in Franklin for that matter! If I lived in a home that was junk and costing me money, ID MOVE!!!

    Personal Responsibility…PASS IT ON!!!! It’s in short supply!

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  • localcitizen

    This is an ignorant debate. If you use more electricity, you will pay more money. Very simple! There is no conspiracy to charge certain residents more than others. How absurd! It is YOUR responsibility as a resident (renter or homeowner) to determine where your energy loss is coming from, not the city’s. Take it upon yourself to make the necessary changes in your energy usage rather than protest and complain. The city is bending over backwards to help these people and yet they still protest “injustice”…

    Suggest Removal

  • toka

    It’s sad to read these post!!!!! I don’t live in Franklin. But when visiting my mom who’s been living there for 6 years ( Who purchased a fairly new home) I noticed a unique group of people nothing to be proud of….. I was so happy when my mom told me she wanted to put her house on the market. She is an older lady in her late sixties she stated she has never lived in a place like Franklin…. Again I say like in my previous post This is not a DESIRED city to live in Hampton Roads. A piece of advice I could give to the city of Franklin Work on your customer service Let’s start with your city employees first….. And let’s work on Speeding up your overall work performance. Everyone move it to your own pace ( Turtle mode) This should also include at your stores and restaurants. It would be great if you worked on the over all experience for outside is visiting Franklin….. Just think you never hear someone say they want to move to Franklin Virginia…. Say, but true To all the public officials that should be your first priority ….Changing outsiders opinion about Franklin

    Suggest Removal

  • toka

    It’s sad to read these post!!!!! I don’t live in Franklin. But when visiting my mom who’s been living there for 6 years ( Who purchased a fairly new home) I noticed a unique group of people nothing to be proud of….. I was so happy when my mom told me she wanted to put her house on the market. She is an older lady in her late sixties she stated she has never lived in a place like Franklin…. Again I say like in my previous post This is not a DESIRED city to live in Hampton Roads. A piece of advice I could give to the city of Franklin Work on your customer service Let’s start with your city employees first….. And let’s work on Speeding up your overall work performance. Everyone move it to your own pace ( Turtle mode) This should also include at your stores and restaurants. It would be great if you worked on the over all experience for outside is visiting Franklin…..

    Suggest Removal

  • Baseball

    Go to walmart next wednesday,april 3rd and sit in front of store at checkout line and observe what you see. You freeloaders go to Work and stop looking for free handouts and thinking somebody owes you something.

    Suggest Removal

  • gs

    they are known as “gimmedats”, politically speaking that is

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  • kahlie.worrell88

    My husband and I are hard working citizens of this town. We don’t get hand outs and we work for everything we have. Have any of you rude and judgmental people thought that maybe its cause the houses in Franklin are almost as old as the town. And that a good amount of people in this town rent out these old houses where the landlords are to cheap to keep their houses up to date. So therefore the electric bill rises. No one wants to be cold people shouldn’t have to bundle up to stay warm in their houses. Instead of spending time writing post making fun of these people maybe you should give then advise on ways to reduce their bill. No wonder there are kids bullying other children there parents are bullies and kids learn best from their experiences. People need to remember that saying we grew up hearing IF YOU HAVE NOTHING NICE TO SAY DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL!!!!!

    Suggest Removal

    • concernedcitizen

      kahlie, tell that to your friends! the people that have worked hard for what they have around here are fed up with this crap. drug dealers on the street corners and good for nothing people walking the street all day long that dont even try and get jobs…..its time these people take responsibility for their actions and start changing their habits……definition of stupidity: doing the same things over and over expecting a different result!

      Suggest Removal

    • simplifyingit

      I know more than a few “landlords” ie investment property owners of Franklin and because the renters damage so much stuff and the high taxes they have to pay into these “entitlement” programs they state their profit margin to be minimal.

      Suggest Removal

    • seymorebutts

      kahlie.worrell88 Are you serious??? What you have said is…. I can’t even explain my disbelief. These pleople walking around with picket signs don’t appear to be mentally or physically disabled. They have the same opportunity as any of us to make life decisions that lead up to where they reside. I could care less about the condition of their house. What matters is the honest citizens tax money being wasted on this and a 1,000+ other irrational things these people try to pull in order to steal a dollar from the things our tax money should be used for.

      Suggest Removal

    • seymorebutts

      “No one wants to be cold people shouldn’t have to bundle up to stay warm in their houses.” You contradict yourself. If what you have said is true, it’s not “their houses”. Just the same, the money they’re trying to scam isn’t their money either. If they’re successful, it will increase the electric bills for the decent citizens! The city council needs to stop acknowledging this group and devote their time on important issues.

      Suggest Removal

  • RACN35

    my propane bill is $700 very other month for heat … NOT TO MENTION THE POWER BILL ….turn your effing heat DOWN …

    he who sad it BEST :::

    Baseball March 28, 2013 at 5:56 am
    i would bet my pay check, that the ones complaining about there high electric Bills are the ones that have had there heat set on 85degrees since last october and havent turned it back and probably got there Cook stove are oven set on broil with door layed wide open to heat the house also. Probably looks like an airport runway because of all the lights that are left on that should be turned off. Just looking for free handout.

    Suggest Removal

  • TaxMax

    Now per the Suffolk Sun this “group” is going to meet tonight at the MLK Center on Oak St. and petition the city to send in “inspectors” to look at the heat loss in the houses. Uh, isn’t that what you call a HVAC comany for??? Hmmmm… If I was a city resident paying my own way I would go picket the meeting. Also, anyone want to ride by and check the make and models of the cars??? I know of a lady who needed assistance and her car payment was over $430 a month.

    I am only getting 21 miles per gallon on my ford truck instead of 22 mpg, guess I will call Blake Ford and have them send someone to my house and diagnose the problem for free… Heck, I went to buy a TV from WalMart and they were cabled to eachother and to the rack. Come to find out people were walking right out with them… Go figure!

    Suggest Removal

    • simplifyingit

      Bet they aren’t paying any rent or making any donation to use the MLK building as a meeting place either. My tax money pays for the building, its maintenance, and all the workers in there while this group of freeloaders uses it “organize” an start a petition against the city?!?!?!?!?!

      If i were Randy Martin i would tell them they cannot use a city building for what TaxMax mentioned. Its like letting a “Gang” use a church to teach their members how to “Bang”. GOOD GRIEF…someone has “grow a pair” and tell these people to “suck it up, buttercup” and quit crying foul and using race as a crutch!!!!!!

      Suggest Removal

      • curious

        Sad to say some have used the “crutch” for so long that the skin has grown over it and it has become permanently attached. During the flood of ’99, the race card was been washed down river, but apparently not far enough. I remember newspapers writing articles on the togetherness of the City and citizens of our community working as a team to help one another no matter what. Now almost 14 years later we have reverted back into the original cliques and it is business as historically usual. With a lot of the same old crew calling shots and stirring pots. I will be very glad when CSX stops using the “tracks’ here in Franklin so they can be ceremoniously torn up and the streets re-paved so we will no longer have the great divide in this city.

        Suggest Removal

    • gd12620

      Did you know social services pays past due court fines and DMV reinstatement fees for people???? I think that is ABSURD. Too many free handouts to folks who don’t want to DO anything but WANT everything paid for them. And now this. SMH.

      Suggest Removal

  • 23851

    My wife and I both are college educated, working class people. Renting a home trying to cut debt down from college and raise a child. Can we get some of this government assistance with our rent and utility?……… Nah sir, it pays to be uneducated not educated!

    Suggest Removal

    • simplifyingit

      But if those who receive anything from STOP help to childcare to free cell phones would go to work and quit abusing the system there would be plenty of money and govt programs available to TEMPORARILY help you and get you on your feet!!! But then you wouldn’t need help because your NET pay would be so close to your GROSS income you’d think you had won the lottery!!

      Don’t even mention how many times the baby mommas buy lotto tickets while, not working, not going to school, sending their children to Head Start daycare, and riding in style with the Twenty-Fos on the Caddy!!

      Suggest Removal

      • TaxMax

        Heck, go to Fram Fresh on the 1st of the month and watch all the carb and lobster that goes out the door that is paid for by food stamps. And now convenience stores take EBT for prepared stuff… Back in the day there were more limits on what could be bought… Now there is no one minding the hen house… Turn the other cheek like it doesn’t matter in this situation because it benefits them but by golly if someone feels their power bill is too high let’s bring up racism first???

        Suggest Removal

      • TaxMax

        carb = crab

        Suggest Removal

  • Dave Joyner

    I have the opportunity to visit inside many homes in Franklin during the “Christmas Season” & have observed firsthand how drafty they are. It is hard to heat the outside.

    Suggest Removal

  • employee2

    The sign says “God is for Justice Not injustice” and that is why nothing has been found amiss.

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  • Baseball

    i would bet my pay check, that the ones complaining about there high electric Bills are the ones that have had there heat set on 85degrees since last october and havent turned it back and probably got there Cook stove are oven set on broil with door layed wide open to heat the house also. Probably looks like an airport runway because of all the lights that are left on that should be turned off. Just looking for free handout.

    Suggest Removal

  • bobs94

    After reading this article, one thing became predominately clear. Black people in Franklin use more energy than whites to heat their homes. Therefore, it must be true that black people are responsible for global warming.

    Suggest Removal

    • cheechee

      Do you think only black people live on the south side of town??? Your comment was quite possibly one of the most ignorant ones I’ve read in this entire list of rants. “After reading this article, one thing became predominately clear. Black people in Franklin use more energy than whites to heat their homes. Therefore, it must be true that black people are responsible for global warming.” For your information, my family is white and we live on the south side and have for a number of years. Our bills are much higher than last year, and I can vouch that our usage was nearly the same. I don’t think there is a conspiracy in the city, but I would be honest in saying that it wouldn’t surprise me a bit based on comments I’ve heard from others who happen to live on the “better side of town”. I simply believe that utility rates have risen–as they have all over America!

      Suggest Removal

    • spider68

      bobs94–Please don’t conveniently forget the white boys that were there. They must be contributing also.

      Suggest Removal

  • DryRain

    The mind is a terrible thing to waste. I thought Mr. Martin gave a good presentation, it is a shame there are so many close minded people in Franklin.

    No wonder the schools are having a hard time trying to educated the children of these people.

    This is getting embarrassing that Franklin has so many idiots. Just another reason to cut out entitlements, always wanting something for nothing, would much rather lie than tell the truth, some people have no shame in asking others to pay for their comforts,

    Apparently after listening to Mr. Martin, FP&L has done a follow up on complaints but the group doesn’t want to hear the truth, can’t handle the truth and would much rather follow someone dumber than a box of rocks.

    I agree with Mrs. Johnson-Ashburn, let the group hire at their expense a neutral person or company to check behind FP&L and see what they can find out, then let the public know what they find out.

    Keep putting pictures of these people on here, I want to know who the real genius’s are. LOL

    Suggest Removal

  • seymorebutts

    I’m offended the photographer only included citizens from the AA community in the photo. Why did the photographer exclude my race? I demand answers! This is an injustice! On a side note, genetics & evolution plays a role here whether you acknowledge it as truth or not. The darker… Scratch that, Lets take it the other way so I can seem more politically correct. The lighter your skin is, the less heat you will need to feel comfortable. This can not be determined by evaluating person by person, but on a larger scale… Such as an entire city… It is a sizable factor that shouldn’t be ignored.

    Suggest Removal

  • handkusp45

    I watched some of Monday Nights coucil meeting on TV. I noticed (just as in the picture above) that some folks presumed that God is on their side. I had to wonder how many of those folks voted for Obama? I think we all know the answer to that, over 98%. They can vote for a man who favors killing unborn babies and having men marry men and then have the gall to ask that justice be done. If that is the case they don’t need electricity, lightning will suffice.

    Suggest Removal

  • simplifyingit

    This is the type of thing Franklin asked for when they started accepting state and federal grants to tear down, remodel, rebuild and build homes that were then to be sold or rented out to the lower income population. That type of citizenry brings everything in the city down until a city can no longer function. It is in the city’s best interest to start returning the real estate back to private hands and refuse any more grant help. The population will improve, in turn bringing school averages up, median incomes up, business will increase, the workforce will be stronger and more knowledgeable an Franklin will be the city we all would like to see. No municipality can be so grant dependent as Jim Councills Franklin became, that is where they went wrong in the beginning.

    Suggest Removal

  • DIESEL

    Turn your heat down a little and close your doors. Its winter…my electric is double what it is in the summer. Its a simple fact of life. Electricity costs money.

    Suggest Removal

  • Greg McLemore

    I would like to commend the Franklin citizens that weathered the cold, protesting and attending the Council meeting to express their feelings regarding excessive utility bills. I’m sure the crowd in attendance reflects the feelings of hundreds more citizens that were not present. In defense of your concerns, here are a few steps I recommend to address your concerns. First take your concern to the appropriate department, if you cannot reach a satisfactory resolution there, 2nd, take the concern to the City Manager, 3rd contact your Ward Councilperson. If none of the previous attempts bring you any resolution, bring your concerns directly to the entire City Council. There is no guarantee that your problem will be solved but, the council has the authority to address any issue and authority to make changes to most issues that affect you.

    Suggest Removal

    • Ethan

      Councilman McLemore: There is no evidence that anyone is being charged in error. Therefore this is not a City government issue and they should not be taking up the time of City employees. Instead they should do the following. (I have provided responses so the whiners won’t have to reply.)

      - Have an HVAC technician come in and evaluate their heating and air conditioning systems. Have units serviced, if needed, or replaced if worn out. (Oh no. This will me cost money and there is no government program to pay for it for me.)

      - Check all windows and doors for air leakage. Install weather stripping as necessary. Also, check for air infiltration though outlets or holes in wall. Seal these leaks. (Sorry, too much trouble for me to do.)

      - Turn thermostat down, preferably to 68 degrees. Wear sweaters if this is too cold. (You really don’t expect me to live in a house that isn’t toasty warm. It is my right to live in a house that is 78 degrees and I shouldn’t be expected to pay more for exercising my right.)

      - Turn off all lights except in rooms where people actually are. Turn off all electrical equipment that isn’t being used. (If all my lights aren’t on, people will think I am cheep. It is important for me to keep up appearances. I just shouldn’t have to pay for it.)

      Suggest Removal

      • handkusp45

        All of your points are correct. But you missed the point of those who depend on the government for their living. I bet you most many of those protesting get some form of government help and drive a Lexus. The woman who said the STOP oganization fixed up her house needs to Stop and think where that money came from. The government can’t give you anything that it doesn’t first take from someone else. I, for one, am tired of supporting babies mamas.

        Suggest Removal

      • Ethan

        To handkusp45: No, I did not miss your point. You apparently missed my sarcasm. I was replying to Councilman who is McLemore (when you reply to his post, his name appears). McLemore’s post instructed people to take their concerns to the appropriate City department and if they don’t get resolution, to continue taking it up the ladder. My point is excessive electrical useage is a personal problem, not a City problem, and therefore resolution falls on the resident and not on the City. It is irresponsible for Mr. McLemore to instruct these people to take up the time of City employees instead of taaking personal responsibility. (Of course, I expect nothing more of Mr. McLemore. If he did something responsible, I would be shocked.)

        Suggest Removal

      • handkusp45

        @Ethan, I was not dissagreeing with you. All your points are right on. Why should tax payer money (through wages of city employees) be spent to trouble shoot an individuals waste of electricity? If the meter is functioning correctly the rest is up to the citizen. Another case of getting something for nothing.

        Suggest Removal

  • bobs94

    I don’t see anyone in the picture for this article that looks like they are going hungry.

    Suggest Removal

  • franklinsince50

    I sympathize with the folks whose electric bills are out of control. My electric bills have been extremely high the last 2 months so I checked my bills from last year this time and they are within a few dollars of what 2013 bills have been. I don’t think the City is charging folks different rates according to where you live. This winter has been colder than usual and the cold weather has hung around longer. Hopefully our bills will go down when the weather warms up.

    Suggest Removal

  • SJmithB

    the Virginia State Police use the “wifi” electric meter to tap into your home and see in. Check out popsci.com seeing through walls with a wireless router. It is killer on your electric bill. They want to find out who owns guns and steal them.

    Suggest Removal

  • wiskeymike

    What a joke , lets just give free power to everyone !

    Suggest Removal

  • 23851

    And the city is going to put its foot down and…….. turn your power off.

    Suggest Removal

    • concernedcitizen

      you are only billed for what you use, whether its water or electric. stop trying to get a handout. take the time to learn what is causing you to use he high amount of electricity and get it fixed, you all are doing the equivalent of protesting the gas station for how much gas your car uses. educate yourselves and stop thinking everyone is out to get you. if you went to the city and asked for education and help they would help you quicker than telling them they are cheating you out of something, thank OBAMA for this outlook on life, where is he? is he going to help you with you utility bills? nope, he is on vacation in some other country while you suffer, great job electing him! he really cares about you

      Suggest Removal

      • curious

        That is a very good analogy concerned. An Accord and a Hummer will definately use different amounts of gas. Also will work for age of vehicle and the maintenance of said vehicles as well.

        Suggest Removal

      • donnaboykins44

        you people are all dumb$%###$. this is not a black or white issue. these bills are real.ask yourself why do we have to go and get electric from the city. third party always pays more.it would be simple if the city would just back out.

        Suggest Removal

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