MEMPHIS, Tenn (localmemphis.com) - Over the past few months, some Mid-South taxpayers have received high utility bills with no explanation other than the bills needed to be paid. For weeks, people in Holly Springs, Mississippi, have demanded answers. Monday, a town hall meeting was held in conjunction with the Holly Springs Utility Department where questions were answered.
There was push back from the crowd at the meeting when the city said it could not legally lower utility bills, even if the city was partially responsible for a meter-reading debacle.
"You can come over to my house and we’re sitting in the dark most of the time," Tommy Arnold told Local 24. "We usually just have the television on and a lamp."
Arnold is both a resident and business owner in Holly Springs. We found him at HSUD paying his utility bills prior to the town hall meeting.
"I’m not using what I’m getting charged for," he said. "My home bill is higher than my garage business bill. Something just isn't right."
For weeks he's been trying to get answers. He made it a point to show up to be present at the town hall meeting. It was a packed house at the Holly Springs Multi-Purpose Building Center.
"We started having some difficulties with the system on or about May 25," HSUD general manager Bill Stone told the crowd.
During his power point presentation, he explained why the bills were so high. He said in part, the ATI meter reading system was blown/damaged during a storm earlier this summer. The damaged equipment interfered with meter readings.
"The problem that happened when all this occurred was that we were still recovering from storm damage," he said. "Some of the crews we would have pulled off other projects to go read meters were not available.”
So instead Stone said an estimation was used to generate a bill for Holly Springs residents. That bill was based on usage from two months prior.
"As bad as this situation is, it’s far better to tell somebody that you’ve got a high make-up bill, then you got high bill from an estimation," said Stone.
Monday night the crowd questioned that formula, saying the numbers don't add up and that infrastructure failure is not their problem.
"I think I should have to pay what I owe and what I've used," said Sheri McClatchey, "Anything over that is on them."
James Patterson agreed saying, "They need to get their act together quick because there ain’t no way in the world people are going to pay those bills.”
As for Tommy Arnold, he feels the town hall meeting was just filled with talking points and no real solutions.
"I don’t know when we’re going to be able to get answers," said Arnold. "They need to pay for their mistakes. They made them, they need to pay for."
Mayor Kelvin Buck told Local 24 the city is working with those impacted by higher bills. In addition to four deferments on utility bills, Buck also mentioned residents can put themselves on a three-month payment plan.