ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Earlier this month, News 8 spoke to DeeAnna Chambers about her RG&E bill of $8,617 dollars. She said RG&E corrected that to $4,127, then corrected it again to $9,335 dollars. Monday, RG&E called her.
“She really seemed like she really genuinely wanted to help me understand. But I am still kind of confused,” Chambers said.
A bit of history about her home on Scrantom Street in Rochester: this was a condemned bank-foreclosed home DeeAnna bought in 2016. For years, she and her family worked on it themselves, getting it ready to move into. While power was connected in 2017, it wasn’t really used.
“We really had to gut the whole thing out and we were told we had to bring everything up to code,” said Chambers, adding, “There was no gas being used at all. And the electricity that was being used was literally to run tools.”
Besides her family working on it, the home was vacant until August of last year when she and her family moved in.
“I didn’t physically get a bill. I was set up for paperless billing. So I didn’t see any bills come to the house,” she said referring to the years 2017 to 2022 while they were working on the house. Her account online won’t even go back that far she said.
In fall, multiple bills arrived for her. January alone was six separate bills, again, with one of them being $8,617. That was corrected to $9,335. She said RG&E told her she owes that staggering amount going back to 2017 when power was first connected.
“What are they using to run our utilities, gold?” she asked.
She said RG&E also told her– in addition to paying that $9,335 bill,– she needs to pay her current monthly charges, which are estimated. Chambers is confused by that amount as well.
“She’s telling me my current bill is $700 per month,” said Chambers.
Chambers already works two jobs to make ends meet. “How am I going to get anything caught up or paid?” she asked.
She said RG&E told her they are going to credit $1,500 dollars towards that big bill and put her into a payment plan. But with so many ups and downs, Chambers is wondering if that’s even a guarantee.
Chambers also supports a group called ‘Metro Justice’. The group held a meeting a public meeting Monday night to discuss what they call RG&E’s lack of transparency with customers.
The organizations said creating a public utility in RG&E’s place would help ease these costs.
The advocates also claim Rochester Mayor Malik Evans has been refusing to hold the energy company accountable — and that he refuses to acknowledge the idea of creating a public utility.
“Your mayor — our mayor — has refused to even study taking over RG&E and turning it into a public utility that is affordable, that is accountable and responsive to ratepayers — a utility that gives you a say while day-to-day operations are managed by trained and qualified professionals,” said Mohini Sharma, Organizing Director of Metro Justice.
Metro Justice claims that public utilities are, “more affordable, reliable, renewable, and economically beneficial to their local communities”. They also named a number of cities and regions in the US they say are also considering public utilities — including San Francisco, Long Island, and the state of Maine.
The group also told News 8 that RG&E backed out of a scheduled meeting with them.
In response to the Metro Justice meeting, RG&E issued the following statement:
“We remain committed to meeting with Metro Justice on their concerns and are working on mutually agreeable logistics for a future meeting. We will stress, as we have repeatedly done, how RG&E following severe COVID impacts, is adding hundreds of new staff to the more than 800 workers in Rochester alone, combatting rising supply rates by providing millions of dollars in relief to customers impacted by increase in rates set by out of state energy suppliers, suspending late payment charges, and since 2019 invested over $11 million in economic development. We will work directly with Metro Justice to clear up any misinformation to ensure all residents have the facts on how RG&E is making significant improvements to customer service, investing in the community, creating jobs and providing safe, reliable, and affordable energy to Rochester residents.“