FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) - Hundreds of Franklin residents gave city council an earful Monday night with complaints about high utility bills.
Some residents showed WAVY.com bills of nearly $1,000 for one month of service.
"It's not right to us people, some of them paying $900 - $1,000 light bills," said one angry resident. "It's not fair to anybody."
In Franklin, citizens do not pay a power company. Instead, they pay a monthly lump sum to the city for electric, water and trash. Many say their bills have doubled, or worse.
"I went out of town to Germany for almost a month, and I came back and got my bill for January. It was almost $500," one resident told council.
Another woman explained how she had to leave her home of 13 years, because her electric bill cost more than her mortgage.
But perhaps the most moving speaker was one of council's own members. Councilman Gregory McLemore took the podium with passion from his own personal experience with the billing issue.
"The people can no longer afford to pay the city money just because the city says, 'I can take it,'" said McLemore.
The packed council chambers erupted in applause after McLemore's comments.
Franklin's City Manager Randy Martin listened to all of the comments, taking down the speakers' names and addresses. After the public comment session, Martin brought the audience up to date on the internal billing audit.
Martin says the city had 33 official complaints last month, and each one was investigated. There were no discrepancies found with any of the 33 meters, though he learned some residents unknowingly had their emergency heat system on, which uses a significant amount of energy.
Martin compared seasonal graphs to overall usage, noting the cold winter this year corresponds with higher utility bills.
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.
"Life is hard as it is, don't make it harder," one resident said to council. "We are working as hard as we can to make ends meet."
The city council encourages anyone who cannot pay their bills to sit down with the city manager for a one-on-one meeting to resolve the issue.
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