Minden customers shocked by utility bill spike - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Minden customers shocked by utility bill spike

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MINDEN, LA (KSLA) -

Some ArkLaTex utility customers are upset about their most recent bills. That's because those bills were higher than normal, a lot higher for some. And they're asking why. A few of them turned to KSLA News 12 for help.

"I said, 'What the (bleep!) (laugh). But that half-laugh quickly turned to tears for Lea Allen, a single mother of three in Minden, Louisiana who couldn't believe how much her utility bill had jumped last month. She recalled her next reaction. "And a couple more M-F's and some F-words and some, 'they done lost their minds. I ain't paying this um, um bill.' My bill went from $300 to $769."

So Allen immediately called the city of Minden, which operates and bills 6,000 customers for electricity, water, sewage, and sanitation services. The response: "Due to they were short-handed and due to the rain they couldn't get nobody out to read the bills," recalled Allen.

Allen called us to investigate. And we quickly discovered she wasn't alone. "I think mine at my house might have went up from, might have went up like about $60, I'm not sure," said Moody's Cafe owner, Ernestine Moody. We caught up with her inside her kitchen during the Thursday lunch rush and told us that her restaurant's utility bill also went up.

And down the road a few miles we met another customer who's neighbor across the street saw a sharp increase in his bill, too. Minden resident Chithim Maldonado said of her neighbor's bill, "His bill was almost $300, something like that and it was too much."

Minden City Clerk Michael Fluhr declined an on-camera interview for this report. But he did tell us over the phone that there are several factors to blame for why some people's utility bills went sky high for one month.

Fluhr explained that the city recently lost one of its five meter readers. Then, the remaining employees couldn't read those meters on rainy days, or holidays pushing the billing cycle from a normal 32 or 33 days to in some cases 45-days. But Fluhr told us customers could make payments.

That was news to Lea Allen who immediately called the city back, and spoke to an employee: "So, pay some now and then pay the other half the first of the month?"

But after that phone call, Allen said even that will be a stretch, trying to play catch up explaining, "Pay your other half (the) 1st of March, plus your March bill?"

We also spoke by phone with Minden City Councilman Tommy Davis who said 'the problem' has been corrected. When asked 'how,' Davis said meter readers have been putting in extra hours to get the job done for the next billing cycle.

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