By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Despite more than an hour of discussion, Killeen City Council members were told Tuesday that the city cannot do anything to help ease the financial strain some residents claim come in the form of their monthly electric bills.
Though the item was not set for a public hearing, and therefore not up for comments from residents, council members expressed their own frustrations with their own high electricity bills and those of their constituents.
Mayor Timothy Hancock asked that the council discuss the issue after a flood of calls and e-mails from residents poured in to council members.
Residents complained of bills that had doubled and sometimes tripled in the past month after Oncor, an electric delivery company that serves millions throughout the state of Texas, installed digital electric meters.
"I've never seen this much complaint about another issue," said Councilman Juan Rivera. "We have a situation and we need to find out what's going on."
Though each council member, the mayor and City Manager Connie Green expressed their frustrations with the high costs many residents reported they were not expecting, City Attorney Kathy Davis told the council that it had no power to fight against those costs.
"We have no official part in this process," she said. Though Green promised to act as a liaison between disgruntled residents and electric companies, Davis said since the city technically has no power over the companies, "to them it's just another person calling."
Regardless, Green invited residents to call his office if they have received sub-par customer service with their electric provider regarding a high electric cost. Residents can reach the office of the city manager at (254) 501-7700.
John Toone, Oncor representative, said his grievances are identical to Killeen residents'.
"We're just as frustrated with these electric service providers as y'all are," he said. Many of the customer service representatives are unaware of how the monitoring and billing processes work and transfer customers to the wrong people, which makes finding a reason for the high bills exceptionally difficult.
"It's an uphill battle," he said.
Though council members told Toone that they believed rates and meter misreads were the reason for the rising costs, Toone maintained that "this is a weather-related situation."
Despite this, he told Rivera that he would request a series of free meter readings for Killeen residents but that his supervisors would make the final decision.
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.