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Rocky Mount community reaches out in time of need

Posted January 29, 2010

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— Going to the Frederick E. Turnage Municipal Building in Rocky Mount is a trip Clarence and Pamela Henderson dread every month.

The retired couple go there to pay their utility bill. This month, it's nearly $1,000. Usually, it averages close to $900 in the winter.

"It's ridiculous," Pamela Henderson said. "It's more than your mortgage."

On a fixed income, the money only goes so far.

"It's like tossing between 'Do you keep the roof over your head?' or 'Do you do the heat?'" she said.

"And you pray for the warm temperatures to come back," Clarence Henderson said.

Complaints about utility bills in Rocky Mount are nothing new.

That's why Rocky Mount leaders this week took a step toward helping keep the heat on for those struggling to pay their bills.

"I don't think any city official wants to wake up the next morning and say that someone died because their utilities were turned off," said City Councilman Andre Knight.

The City Council voted to hire two staff members and expand the customer service specialist department.

If someone truly cannot afford to pay his or her bill, staff will help set up a manageable payment plan, and in some cases, cover the cost through donations.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell and Knight say more people are struggling with the bills this year because of job losses and colder temperatures.

""They can keep connected in the most critical and severe time of weather for us," Blackwell said "It's critical, because energy costs for everyone are really escalating."

"We can't bankrupt our city, but we can't bankrupt people's households," Knight said.

Residents like Carol Maude say the extra help is necessary in Rocky Mount.

"I think that is wonderful. I really do, because the need is very great and the jobs are not there," said Maude said. "Hopefully, I will be one of those people they can assist, because I can't afford $1,000 a month."

Without that help, she said, she and her family might have been left in the cold.

City leaders say they are also working on seeking some federal grants to help to help ease the bigger problem of high utility costs in general.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • kbo80 Feb 8, 2010

    Now these are people that need help. I have never seen a bill that big. That is about 6 months for me. I can't even imagine paying that much a month. Wow I'm glad people are not robbing more than they do.

  • stateman Feb 4, 2010

    I moved out of RMT a little over a year ago. we had an 1800 sq ft home and the utility bill in the winter was around $600 a month. This hightest bill I have had since I left has been 140.00.

  • jetstream Feb 3, 2010

    Wow, I had a 2300 sq. ft. house in Rocky Mount and my average bill was $350 or so in the winter. Granted we left 3-yrs. ago. I find it hard to believe that there has been that much of an increase. Something is very wrong with that one. Yikes. My bill would be almost $1000 a month now. Glad I moved out of that rat hole.

  • luvmyjackrascal Feb 2, 2010

    Is Rocky Mount higher than everyone else? If so, it might be cheaper in the long run for people to move out of Rocky Mount. Imagine saving $750 a month - That is unreal - the city of Rky Mt does not care about the people though, so this is no surprise,.

  • apoea Feb 2, 2010

    Yes its crazy I just got my heating bill. I live in an apartment and keep my heat on 65 and my bill was $241.

  • ernestwilliams Feb 2, 2010

    If Rocky Mount did go Bankrupt then maybe we could fix the real problem starting with the ones that got us into this mess. MAY BE IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP, WE CAN'T DO ANY WORSE

  • samiam1244 Feb 1, 2010

    These Electric bills are outrageous. no one should have that big of a bill. are these people buying the power companies? at that price they should be. someone needs to investigate this power co.. seriously ...

  • Sound Tech Feb 1, 2010

    The reason theses utility bills are so high is because years ago the City of RM entered into a CO-Op with others on its electrcity. Just like adjustable morgages they are now paying the price.

  • hank5049 Feb 1, 2010

    the reason the bills are so high is because the city of rocky mount has a monopoly on all services. electric,gas,water,sewage,trash,storm water runoff, the city provides all of these services with no other choices. i have two friends there and their bills were $795 for a 1800 square foot home and $1190 for a 2000 square foot home. i live outside of nashville. i have progress energy and my bill for same time was $180. and i know that's just the power bill. i have septic tank, well water and i take my own trash to land fill. but the city of rocky mount are gouging these all ready poor people.

  • YNCSW51 Feb 1, 2010

    I agree with you Bree, Why are the bills that high anyway. Someone is getting rich at the expense of Rocky Mount citizens. The city needs to do more to reduce the cost.