Residents are having trouble with utility bills - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Residents are having trouble with utility bills

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

October 30, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More proof of tough times. Albany Water, Gas, and Light is cutting off service to 10% more of its customers because they can't pay their bills.

On top of that, the number of bad checks from WG&L customers has nearly doubled in just three months.

With this week's early cold blast, WG&L worries this could be the beginning of a much larger problem.

It's the same situation all over the country. People are having difficulty paying utility bills and ending up in the dark.

"Because of people's inability to pay," said Mary Ann Petty of Water, Gas, & Light.  "Some people are losing their jobs. The ones that are not losing their jobs, time is being cut down on those jobs so they don't have the money they would normally have to pay those bills."

Last year through September, 66,547 weren't able to pay their bills on time. This year, that number has jumped all the way to 74,566.

A difference of more than 8,000.

"We had a significant increase in non-pays from last year to this year," said Petty.

Not only non-pays, but also the amount of people paying with bad checks.

In June of this year, only 324 checks bounced. But in September, they nearly doubled at 615.

"Not only do they have to pay a $25 fee when the check returns here. If we turn them off for non payment of that check, there's another $25 and, of course, I know the bank charges them another service charge also," said Petty.

November is normally a buffer month for the utility, allowing a period without high cooling or heating costs, but that may not be the case this year.

"This winter is going to be a bad winter for our Water, Gas and Light Customers."

Especially since cold weather made an early arrival. WG&L does allow payment extensions in certain circumstances, but you must sign up before your due date.

For more information about payment plans and ways you can make sure your power stays on, call water, gas and light at 883-8330.

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