ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Some Rocky Mount residents are furious over their utility bills. They say rates are so high, they often do not have enough money for other necessities. The city says it is not overcharging, residents are just using more electricity.
Like many families, the Farmers try to provide the best for their three children on a very tight budget. Lately, they said their utility bills make it nearly impossible to get by.
The Farmers said three years ago, their utility bill ran about $150 a month. Now, it averages $350 to $500 a month. When they cannot pay it all at once, they said it adds up. At one point last month, they owed more than $800.
"If you're concentrating all your money on one bill, you can't pay the rest of your bills," Keith Farmer said.
"It leaves us wondering how are we going to pay our phone bill. How are we going to eat tonight?" Mononette Farmer said.
Mononette Farmer is one of about 250 people who recently packed into City Hall to voice their concerns. City finance director Craig Kivett said customers are being charged for exactly what they use.
"Rates have gone up over the years just like everything else has, so has energy consumption. We have more appliances," he said.
Kivett said customers in Rocky Mount do pay about 20 percent more than customers in the Triangle, but most goes directly toward buying and distributing energy. The city said it will help customers who are concerned with high utility bills find ways to reduce energy consumption, including adding more insulation to older homes.
"If we can barely pay these electricity bills, how are we going to be able to pay people to come in and put brand-new windows and doors and insulation in our house?" Mononette Farmer said.
Rocky Mount said it will work with customers who cannot afford to pay their entire bill upfront. The city serves about 30,000 customers.