High utility bills concerning Franklin residents

A Franklin woman's recent electric bill was more than $900.

FRANKLIN, Va. (WAVY) – There are power bill problems in the City of Franklin.

“Our light bills have become outrageous for the last couple of months,” said Frances Sharp, who’s lived in the city for about 20 years.

She paid $522 in December, but says January’s bill is what shocked her.

Sharp said, “When I opened that one, it was not so okay.  My light bill was $891 and I’m not including the change.”

She’s not the only person dealing with high utility bills.

Olivia Johnson, who has lived in Franklin for about 15 years, said, “Two bills like $1,800.  I don’t see how somebody could use that much electricity.”

With $900 from both December and January, Johnson isn’t sure what to do.

“We will either have to pay our light bill or pay the rent,” Johnson said.  “But my light bill being as much as it is, with the money I get, I won’t be able to pay no rent.”

Officials with Franklin Municipal Power and Light say January set a record for power usage.  Plus, because of the sustained cold temperatures, prices spiked.

However, City Councilman Gregory McLemore isn’t convinced, wondering if there’s a mechanical issue.  He said, “I cannot accept that these people are running these astronomical bills.”

At last night’s city council meeting, council offered an extended payment plan for the high bills, but McLemore wants the city to foot some of the bill.  He thinks they should average people’s bills, add about 20 percent on because of the weather, and then cover the rest.

McLemore said, “We are sitting on reserves in case of an emergency, for many of our citizens, this is an emergency.”

Council did vote to not shut off any utilities for the next two weeks as they work toward a solution.

“There is a problem with this picture, it is not a Kodak moment,” Sharp said.

City council is holding another meeting about the power bills coming up on Monday, February 26.