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'I am damn mad:' frustrations boil over at Sno Co PUD meeting

KOMO

EVERETT, Wash. -- For a meeting about outrageous electric bills, sparks sure did fly.

Hundreds packed the Snohomish County Public Utility District headquarters Tuesday night to sound off on soaring electric bills. One man, who lives alone, said his utility bill was $91 one month, and skyrocketed to roughly $2,000 the next.

"I'm tired of being lied to. You know what's going on. All of you know what's going on," said the man, who fought back tears as he addressed commissioners. "My bill jumped up 90 percent. 90 percent! I used to pay $91 dollars. [But now I pay] $2000. It's a damn shame."

Representatives for the utility say a colder winter and higher energy rates contributed to the billing increases. They also moved to a monthly billing system in September. Meters are read every two months now, with the first month's bill reflecting actual usage and the second month's bill reflecting an estimate based upon energy use at the same address the previous year.

"That's a lot of change for customers to deal with all at the same time," said Jim West, assistant general manager for the utility's customer service. "To double the meter readings would mean doubling the meter-reading staff, which would mean a multi-million dollar investment."

West tried explaining the changes to the fired-up crowd. Some shouted over him.

"With all due respect, sir, you're insulting our intelligence!" yelled one woman. "My bill went from $220 every two months to $506 for one month. The fuzzy math doesn't work."

Bobby Elliott of Snohomish was among those in the crowd. The father of three downsized last year, moving from a 2,500 square foot house to a 1,300 square foot one.

His bill -- in the new house -- was $145 for the month of January. It nearly quadrupled in February to $588.

"They estimated on the family that had lived there before us, which in my mind, isn't right," Elliott said. "It was just outrageous. $588 for a month? I can't afford that. I have three little kids at home. I have a wife."

Commissioners ushered many people who spoke into a nearby room to meet with customer service representatives one-on-one.

"Every customer -- you can call, you can walk into a local office that's convenient," West said. "We'll respond to all of those."

Dan Williams wasn't buying it.

"I represent every single one of these people here and I am damn mad," Williams said. "I do not live on a fixed income. I talk to others that do. That's absolutely absurd what you've done."

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