Fredericktown residents express concern over high, inconsistent - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Fredericktown residents express concern over high, inconsistent utility bills

FREDERICKTOWN, MO (KFVS) - Imagine if your utility bill is as high as $700 to $1,000; and you're not sure what next month's bill may look like.

Dozens of Fredericktown, Missouri residents contacted us wanting to know why they felt their rates were over-priced and inconsistent. 

Not only are some residents mad, but also fearful; and concerned they may not be able to pay in the future.

Meanwhile, the City officials explain the system is much more complicated than it may seem. 

"I'm wondering how I'm going to make it," said Kathy Decker. "I may have to cut out food, my phone, I don't know, I am scared but I have to keep the lights and heat on to live too." 

Decker explained over a six month period her bill went from around $70-$80 up to $160-$170. 

"That's a lot of money to me and I don't have a big place I don't leave the lights on I don't understand why. The winter wasn't that cold," said Decker. 

Decker said she feels her rates are also inconsistent. 

"It's very hare," said Decker. 

She's one of many who came to us with billing concerns about City of Fredericktown rates.

One homeowner showed us a bill that totaled over $700 after winterizing their home. Several other individuals said they've been taking out small loans or payday loans to cover the rates. 

"We know this is difficult for residents. This is a very complicated and there's a lot of red tape here," said Mayor Kelly Korokis. "We are the first line citizens go to but we pay another company under a contract that we answer to as well so there's a lot of channels involved. We are more than willing to listen to concerns and try to work towards something but it may take some time. The citizens can always come to us and we will explain their bills as best we can or come to the council meetings." 

She explained one city employee manually reads every meter in the city of over 4,000 residents.

If there's bad weather or a situation where they can't get to them, Mayor Korokis said the bill is estimated, but the cost will be made up on a future bill. 

"It is difficult because the system is not automatic. It would be nicer if it was but that's something the city doesn't have in the budget now," said Korokis. "Some of it comes down to people who have let their bills roll over, or maybe don't realize adding a few degrees of heat can add up or that winterizing their homes could save money. We are open to listening and do realize and understand that some have real concerns. We are all in this together. Myself and the other city employees we pay the city for our utilities too and it's an issue we have to deal with as well." 

Some people have suggested going to another system, but she said contracts do not allow the city to make that move at this time. 

Korokis also told Heartland News in a statement to citizens:

"The City of Fredericktown is aware of citizens who are concerned over their utility bills. There are several factors to keep in mind. First, we did estimate utility usage for one month due to the weather. Also, purchase power was up this billing and this is based on individual usage. Lastly, utility shutoffs did not happen this past billing due to extremely cold weather and if anyone did not pay their previous bill then this was carried over. Since there are several contributing factors, it is best to look at each bill individually. We would be happy to talk to you and look over your bill with you. You may call city hall (573-783-3683) and set up an appointment."

Korokis explained the city gets the election from the pool they belong to Missouri Public Energy Pool and  Missouri Public Utilities Alliance, which is fed through Ameren lines.

The purchase power is what the city pays for the power and what Ameren charges to transmit on their lines, according to Korokis. 

Meanwhile citizens say their hearts beat a little faster when they go to the mailbox to get their bill. They say the uncertainty is unnerving. 

"It makes me mad!" said Joy Williams. "I have a small apartment  and it costs me more than $100 plus to heat or cool it. But I take care of everything to be efficient and it used to be about $50 less. I live alone and I just don't get it, "said Williams. "Something has to change this system just has to change. I think they say oh, we had a cold week let's just charge them more!" 

"It's heartbreaking," said Heather Carey. 

Heather Carey saw similar bill issues and said the rates played a role in her decision to vacate her small apartment and move outside city limits. 

"I just doesn't make any sense we want to know why," said Carey.  

From here people have decided to take action.

Shawn Torrez is a business owner who wants to see the community grow, instead of watch people move out.

He's leading a group of citizens with in the ABC group of business owners and he said they are planning to go to the city with a a way to look for steps to approach the issue because they feel something has to change, 

"If we don't have jobs and the utilities are high our community is not going to grow," he said. "We are a low income community and people can't pay more for utilities than rent. We plan to set up a meeting between city administrators and citizens to help the people understand and see if there's anything we can do. Even if it takes months or years in the long run for Frederticktown it will be worth it." 

The hope is to provide cheaper electricity to the people of Fredericktown, but right now many people just don't know what to expect on their bill.

Stay with Heartland News as we continue to follow community meetings and the next steps to follow. 

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