FRANKLIN, Va. (WVEC) - Shockingly high energy bills have Franklin residents on edge, and this isn't the first time.
The same problem happened in 2013.
"When your electric bill exceeds your rent, Houston we have a problem," said Frances Sharp.
Sharp has lived in Franklin for over 20 years, and this is the first time she’s dealt with extremely high utility bills.
Sharpe explained, "This one came and it was $891 and I'm not including the change. It was stroke worthy."
She lives in a two bedroom apartment and said she keeps her thermostat between 66-68 degrees. Her December bill was $522.
Franklin's City Manager Randy Martin said last month was the highest peak usage the city has seen on record. He blames the below-freezing temperatures on the steep energy bills from last month.
"We are looking at extensions, payment plans things like that on an individual customer basis," explained Martin.
Councilman Gregory McLemore told 13News Now doesn't like that idea. He believes if that happens more people will get behind on their bills. McLemore thinks an audit needs to be done on the equipment and says the people of Franklin need relief.
McLemore explained, "I believe we should allow the citizens to pay their average, tack on 20 percent of their traditional bill, and the city will give them a write off for the rest. A onetime relief."
A city council meeting was held on Monday at 6:30 p.m. Residents had a lot to say.
One by one Franklin residents came before city council with their electric bills in hand, $800, $900 over $1,000 dollars in some cases just for small apartments and homes. They said it's just not right and they need help.
"People are living check to check just to pay the light bill.”
"You are going to put everyone on the street and we don't want to go in the street we don't need to be on the street.”
"We need some help now."
Those were just some of the comments from the standing room only crowd. The majority of them said the city, who runs their own electric company, has nearly doubled their bills in the last month.
"We paid the light bill last month for $530, we paid it this month for $930, and I have the bill right here in my pocket,” said one homeowner.
The city manager said electric use is the highest it has ever been blaming it on the extreme winter weather.
However, residents say their bills have always been too high. They said it's not the weather, it’s the system and the equipment.
"They'll either do something about the bill or I will board my house up and move from Franklin because apparently, they don't want me here,” said another man.
Then there is Patricia Abrams, who has no choice, she said she is already being evicted.
"I'm 61 years old, I got COPD, I've had a heart attack, what do I do, sleep in my car," cried Abrams to the city council members.
In a usual move, City Councilman Greg McLemore addressed his fellow council members from the public podium. He suggested using money from the city's general fund to help residents pay their bills.
"The federal government gives us help when we have a disaster, the state government helped us, it’s time for the city to help the people,” said McLemore.
City council discussed the issue but were unable to come up with a longer-term solution. They plan to bring it back for discussion at their next meeting. They did say no one's lights will be shut off for at least the next two weeks.
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