Lowndes County residents sound off about high electric bills

HAYNEVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Pioneer Electric Cooperative members sounded off about their high power bills during a town hall meeting in Hayneville. A representative for the cooperative was put on the hot seat.

Rebecca Reed was one of the hundreds of people who came to the Lowndes County courthouse to express their anger about high electric bills.  She's on oxygen and needs electricity -- and she's also on a fixed income.

"I got to think about paying my light bill before I do anything," Reed said.  "I don't want them to cut the things off."

Her bills are pushing $400 a month.  Lowndes County officials showed examples where people paid close to two thousand dollars a month.

"For last 10 months, we spent $10,715 for two mobile homes," said Janice Patterson of Mosses.  "We both work, nobody's home during the day and I can't understand why these bills are so high."

To answer questions, Pioneer Electric Cooperative sent its spokesperson, Angela Green, instead of the General Manager or board members.   That didn't sit well with some, who said they didn't get the answers they wanted.

Mosses Mayor Walter Hill, who is also the county's EMA director said he didn't see how Pioneer's general manager could say emphatically that he was  "concerned about the customers and owners and not show his presence here today."

Green pointed out cooperative officials had met with county leaders in the past.

"I am the company spokesperson. I am the one who was hired to address the public concerns of members in a forum such as this, this is why they were not here tonight," Green said.

Green said the cooperative had unique challenges including the high cost of providing electricity to rural areas.  She also said the cooperative had taken steps to help members through federal grants to weatherize homes.

"We're doing the best that we can to educate our members, and that's the best advice that we can tell them," Green said.  "Just get educated on the issues, get educated on how to take personal responsibility for your usage."

Those answers aren't likely to ease the anger here until the rates go down.  County leaders said they will continue to press the issue until it is resolved.