City of Wellington cites higher utility bills on heat, staffing shortages

City of Wellington cites heat, staffing shortages for soaring electric bills
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 8:21 PM CDT
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WELLINGTON, Kan. (KWCH) - The City of Wellington is addressing the increase in utility bills over the past month.

Resident Jessica Heidel said out of nowhere, her utility bill has almost doubled since July.

“When the meter reader came I just told him, I just made a joke and said, ‘I’m just glad that somebody is actually reading the meter.’ And then, he very seriously told us that nobody has read the meter in 3 months. Which, we weren’t surprised about,” said Heidel.

Cathy King, another resident, had a water leak months ago, and she said her bill never reached $600.

“It’s never even been over $400, and that’s with issues, so what’s going on here with no issues?” King asked.

The city put out a statement on Thursday citing several factors for the current billing statements, including higher temperatures, higher usage, and an increased number of days in the billing cycle.

“We were delayed in getting billing statements and meter reads done of our billing because of staff shortages in our meter reading position through the last couple of months,” said city manager Shane Shields. “There’s been higher usage when we have extremely high temperatures.”

Heidel and King say that’s not enough.

“What happens if they shut me off? I don’t really. I mean, I really don’t have anywhere to go,” said King.

“All the residents, not just us, I don’t feel like anybody should have to pay for the fact that they’re not on time or they’re not getting their job done or that they don’t have enough people because that’s not our fault,” said Heidel.

The city said Good Faith pay agreements continue to be an option for customers who may have difficulty in paying their bills and who meet eligibility requirements. Customers who wish to inquire about the agreement can contact the Utility Billing Office several days before the penalty date on the billing statement.

“Usage is not being estimated. If any specific utility service is estimated, it would be indicated on the billing statement,” said the city in the statement.

The city said it has also initiated Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) for electrical services.

“Once all AMI meters have been installed, readings can be obtained automatically without having to physically visit every address. The AMI system will greatly reduce the risk of delays in the billing process. It may be approximately 18 months until the AMI system is fully operational, although the timeline depends on what supply chain issues regarding equipment may be encountered due to the pandemic,” the city said.

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