Alexandria, Louisiana’s Continuing Utility Crisis

From here:

Lindsey Eskew said she was brought to tears this month when a utility bill of almost $1,000 showed up in her mailbox.

She was already a month behind, and now with a bill due of $992.79, she was afraid her lights would be turned off at the two-bedroom home she rents in Alexandria’s Garden District.

Eskew is not alone. As other city residents have wrestled with mounting utility bills, city officials have worked to explain what is going on and reassure customers that they are working to fix things.
Recently, Alexandria changed the way customers are billed for the electric fuel cost, a charge that takes up a large — if not the largest — portion of many residents’ utility bills.

Costs now will be averaged over a six-month period, officials said, to avoid large price spikes during months when fuel prices are high.

But standing Thursday outside the Alexandria Utility Customer Service Center on Murray Street, Eskew seemed as bewildered about how she would pay the bill, calculated under the old method, as she was about the reason her utility bill is so high.

Eskew said she lives alone and spends most of her time working as a clerk at Rapides Regional Medical Center.

Before she leaves for work, she said, she turns everything off but her refrigerator.

“It’s insane. I don’t know how they go about reading the meter, but it’s not right,” she said before walking in to try to negotiate a payment plan.

Eskew was able to keep her lights on. With a down payment — as much as she can afford after she is paid today — she can set up a plan for additional payments and work toward paying off the balance.

As Eskew negotiated payment options, a utility clerk showed her a stack several inches high of the day’s utility cut-off orders for other ratepayers.

****

In May, the city paid a fuel cost of $64.66 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours.

The cost jumped to $80.06 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours this month, but with a six-month average factored in, customers will be billed about $72, officials said.

Connella said he is working on a presentation for a future council meeting that will gauge how Alexandria stacks up with local municipalities in what it pays for utilities.

“If there is a municipality that is paying a really low cost for utilities, I would like to know what they are doing,” he said. “I want to see how they do it.”

****

All the confusion over utility rates has become a little too much for Eskew, who said she soon might leave town, possibly across the Red River to Pineville.

“I love living in the city, but I can’t afford to eat,” she said. “I have to survive, and that means I might have to move away.”

22 Responses to “Alexandria, Louisiana’s Continuing Utility Crisis”


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