Action 9: Customers see heating bills jump by hundreds of dollars

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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STATESVILLE, N.C. —

With temperatures around 90 degrees, you may not be thinking about the harsh winter we had.

But viewers in Statesville are. They saw their bills jump hundreds of dollars and some are still fighting to get them down.

The City of Statesville runs the power utility there, so when customers sent Action 9's Jason Stoogenke their bills, Jason took them to city leaders for answers.

One customer's bill went from $164 one month to $333 the next.  Another: $379 one month to $646 the next.  Charles Steele's went from $244 one month to $699 the next.  That comes to more than $20 per day.

Action 9:  "Sticker shock?"
Steele:  "Yeah.  Very."

So Action 9 asked Statesville Finance Director Lisa Salmon, "Is the city overcharging people?  Is there a glitch in the system?  What's going on?"

 "No, absolutely no glitch in the system and the city's not overcharging people," Salmon said.

She said the city has 26,000 meters to read.  She said it was short-staffed this winter; down to just three meter readers.  Plus, those three couldn't even get to all of the meters, because of the snow.  So the city did something rare, something Duke Energy does in extreme circumstances too.  It charged customers an "estimate" based on what they paid the same time last year.  Then, when the city could read the meters, it adjusted customers' bills.  Some went up.  Some went down.

Action 9 asked if city officials is fully staffed now.  

Salmon:  "We have three full-time positions and, then, we're using one temporary position full-time."  
Action 9:  "Sounds like it's still tough though.  Twenty-six thousand is a lot to get to."
Salmon:  "Yeah.  (With) four people we can generally, generally do that."

Steele paid the $699, so the city wouldn't shut his power. He expected his next bill to be adjusted down, to make up for that estimate.  But, he said it was still more than $300.

Many people all over the WSOC viewing area contact Action 9 about high power bills.  Sometimes, Action 9 finds out you were charged too much, so to challenge anything you think is a mistake.

Click here for more information on the Statesville Utility site for billing issues.

Click here for more information on the Duke Energy site for billing issues.