Aberdeen residents worry about utility bills

By Jeff Clark/Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN – As an investigation into the Aberdeen Electric Department has come to a standstill, some residents are left wondering what’s next – especially when it comes to power bills some say are doubling by the month.
“My bill for last month at my home was billed for 33 days – I don’t know any month that has 33 days in it,” Aberdeen resident Sheila Higgins said. “This month, it was for 35 days and it said my kilowatt usage had gone from 687 to 2,951, which is almost triple. My apartment is only about 1,500 square feet and I have gas heat. I don’t understand why this is happening.”
In a special-called meeting between Mayor Jim Ballard and the Aberdeen Board of Aldermen held earlier in the month, Ballard, who has been interim department head, said meter readers at the department are doing all they can to maintain the city’s billing cycle.
However, some Aberdeen residents believe more needs to be done.
“Enough is enough,” former Aberdeen Alderman Wilchie Clay said. “The city is saying they don’t have enough meter readers, but that’s the city’s problem. One of their main duties is to keep the electric department running properly – this is not the fault of the citizens. Some people have shown me their bills and the were billed for 39 days. This is a real problem for people on fixed incomes. The city needs to find a solution to this problem.”
One of the suggestions Ballard made to the board was to bring in an independent agency to help with the department’s billing. The board did not vote on the measure. According to Clay, Ballard’s idea seems to be the most reasonable solution.
“The city should definitely bring in an outside agency,” Clay said. “They voted to give the meter readers overtime, but that’s not the answer. It has been recommended several times for them to go to an outside meter reading agency, but the board doesn’t want to do it.”
For some Aberdeen residents, a solution can not come soon enough.
“My business (Becca’s Burgers) burned on January 19,” Rebecca Luker said. “This past bill I received was for 54 days – that’s outrageous. We haven’t even used any electricity since the business burned. Why do I have a power bill for almost $300? I don’t what’s going on with this city, but someone needs to do something soon.”