Council reacts to concernsPublished 10:23am Friday, April 12, 2013
BY ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—Franklin City Council members gave their views about the continued investigation and outreach efforts to address concerns about utility rates, to those in attendance at Monday’s Council meeting.
“The (Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills) committees leaders have said they would work with the city,” said Vice-Mayor Barry Cheatham. “I have yet to see that happen.”
The Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills group spokesperson Dr. Linwood Johnson originally asked council, on March 11, for an investigation into improper meter readings or fluctuating rates for different parts of the city.
“They went out and made a media circus out of this the very next meeting,” Vice Mayor Barry Cheatham said. “They have yet to work with the city one-on-one, but instead have said the City has yet to do anything,” he said.
Cheatham notes electrical usage is a one-on-one problem.
“They have yet to work through the system we set up, which was for each individual to come up with their problem. I don’t think the committee is the people we need to be working with – we need to work with citizens one-on-one.”
Councilwoman Mona Murphy (Ward 4) agrees that the city does need to work with citizens individually not with the committee.
“This is an individual problem,” she said. “No one can know what exactly is going on in someone’s house but those that live there.”
Murphy wants to appeal to the citizens of Franklin that there are procedures and programs in place to help.
“Come and see,” Murphy said. “We have 5,500 customers in the city and Mr. Martin (City Manager) has only dealt with 70 customers to date. He can not do a thorough investigation if you are not here to present your problem.”
Councilwoman Mary Hilliard (Ward 5) also believes the issue should be handled one-on-one.
“There is no committee in the city or anywhere else that can work all of this out,” she said. “It is an individual problem.”
Councilman Benny Burgess (Ward 2) does believe the city has a problem with citizens not being able to pay their utility bill.
“We have seen the report through the schools that there are a large number of free or reduced lunch recipients,” Burgess said. “So we know we have a segment of our population that is having a hard time paying their bills. I would like to see us put together a committee or task staff to do whatever we need to do to go out and look for other resources. “
Burgess referred to a program offered by Dominion electric called EnergyShare, where individuals can donate to help those less fortunate to help pay their electric bill.
“Maybe we can make something like that available to the people of Franklin,” Burgess said. “Those of us who are fortunate enough to pay our bills – to help those who aren’t.”
“I know we do a lot to help our citizens,” he said. “I heard the report, but we still have that need.”
Murphy wants more information on all the organizations that already assist.
“I want to know more than just the Social Services contributions,” she said. “I know there are churches out there helping as well as individuals – I want to know who all they are and what they give.”
Murphy does want to look into the additional options that Burgess suggested.
“We need to be educated first about what we already have and what exactly is being given in the city,” she said.