Archive for Sunday, February 27, 2011

Utility cutoffs a life-or-death matter for Eudora couple recovering from house fire

February 27, 2011


Still recovering from a fire that gutted their Eudora home, Beverly and Jesse Wyant found themselves struggling to cover their electric bill.

They had been living in the refurbished house for several weeks when they were notified by the city of Eudora that their electricity would be shut off if they didn’t pay their bill.

Beverly Wyant didn’t see that as an option. Her 86-year-old husband is terminally ill and needs an oxygen concentrator to survive. Wyant would have liked for the city to wait five days until her state pension payment came or allow for a payment plan. But, the city set up a turnoff time.

Luckily, Wyant’s daughter came to the rescue, paying the bill to keep the electricity on. But the experience has left Wyant furious and asking what kind of protections are in place for people on life-support machines.

“That’s premeditated murder — if you know a person is on life-sustaining oxygen, and you pull the plug and you kill them,” she said.

The Kansas Corporation Commission, which oversees utility companies, doesn’t have any policy in place that prevents utilities from cutting off electricity in such as case. They also don’t have any jurisdiction over municipal utilities such as the one in Eudora.

What the KCC has is an informal complaint process where the state agency mediates problems that arise between customers and utility companies. The goal is to work out the problem within 10 days.

“Utility companies are historically very, very agreeable to working something out with customers when they call,” KCC spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos said.

That program isn’t available to residents of Eudora, where the city provides electricity service.

In the case of the Wyants, city staff weren’t aware that an oxygen machine was needed, city administrator John Harrenstein said.

Wyant said that’s not true, adding that the city was fully aware of her husband’s situation.

Harrenstein said customers need to let the city know that they are on life-supporting machines and provide proof of their medical condition so the city can work something out when customers are having trouble paying bills, “So we can take it under consideration and prevent anything from happening to cause the loss of life.”

Harrenstein noted that city residents are notified three times before their electricity is shut off and have 10 days to pay the bill.

Westar Energy, the state’s largest utility company, has a special program for customers who are on life-sustaining machines, such as oxygen concentrators, kidney dialysis machines or electric feeding pumps.

But customers still have to pay their bills and should have a backup plan in place in case the electricity goes out, Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said.

If customers are having trouble paying bills, Penzig said they are given a 21-day extension to work with social services and other resources to find a way to pay the bill.

Westar has about 2,300 customers on the program.

Penzig said it’s the customers’ responsibility to have a backup plan in case of power outages.

“Whether it be a generator or a family member they can go stay with,” she said.

Even though her bill is paid, Wyant said she still wants laws to change to provide more protection for people in her husband’s situation and more regulations on municipal utility providers. She plans to speak at Eudora’s city council meeting tonight.

With a poor economy, Wyant said she believes the situation she faced could be a common one.

“Any of us can get to the point in our life were we get financially stressed very quickly — like, in 30 seconds,” Wyant said. “And what are you going to do?”


countrygal07 7 years, 3 months ago

Eudora should have payment plans available for winter months as Westar offers and follow same policy Westar does. If your payments not made on time to the penny your electricity would be shut off. However, there needs to be a policy for the electric companies also so they can recoupe the money you owe. Otherwise some people will take advantage of the electric companies and not pay their bills. We all have responsibilties as adults.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I'm not normally an advocate for privatization of utility services, but Eudora is one place where it very likely would greatly improve service.

ksarmychick 7 years, 3 months ago

It would also cut the extreamly high city of eudora "cut" they take for the utilities. They get their electricity from westar (I think) and then charge an extra fee ontop of what westar bills them to get thier cut. We pay almost $200 in the winter for water and electricity. We pay double what we were paying in lawrence for crappier service and much crappier water. We can't even drink the water because it tastes like bleach and are forced to buy bottled water to use for cooking. I would love for the city to make all of their bills online. It is such a pain to actually have to drive down to city hall just to pay my bill.

akt2 7 years, 3 months ago

Terminally ill, 86 years old, and on oxygen. And the city wants to turn the electricity off? This seems unacceptable. Especially considering the amount of money that this citizen has most likely paid the City of Eudora in utilities during his lifetime. Get a grip Eudora. And while you're at it do something about your ridiculous sewer fee.

ksarmychick 7 years, 3 months ago

The sewer fee was upped because they lost some 6 millon dollar lawsuit that they are now passing on to the residents. In the few years we have lived here the flat rate sewer fee has gone from $19.99 a month to $43 a month. We complained to the city and they gave us some lame excuse that are water usage is up (but it's not) so we have to pay more. Our water and trash bill alone is over $100 a month and we only use water for bathing and washing dishes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 3 months ago

I was shown a very recent bill on which there was zero water usage, but a $34 sewer fee.

gl0ckUser 7 years, 3 months ago

to the couple using an Oxygen tank Thingy..... You should invest in a couple of solar panels that could power the Unit so incase your stuff does get cut off you can still power the unit. other suggestions....

24 hour laundry mats have plug-in outlets

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

If they quit eating for a couple of months i bet they could afford those solar could sell part of your arsenal glockman and help them out !!!

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

Not to be picking on you glockman but when is the last time you went to a laundry mat ? None of them have open restrooms,pop machines are empty,no type of entertainment (TV or Radio) that works and you think Eudora is ought to meet one of these lowlifes that run said places !!! These are what i consider the "Better" places around,no joke!!!!

08Champs 7 years, 3 months ago

The article would have been improved if the "reporter" contacted the City of Eudora for a comment? I believe it is incredibly inappropriate that the City would knowing deprive the resident of electricity that maintains his oxygen supply, but it's shoddy journalism to not represent the full story.

bevy 7 years, 3 months ago

08 Champs, did you not see the quote from the City administrator above?

08Champs 7 years, 3 months ago

My bad - I need some sleep. Apologies all around.

Kris_H 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, I'm quite sure people who can't pay their electric bill will be able to just run right out and "invest" in some solar panels. What is wrong with some of you people? Or was that a troll I just bit down on?

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

please describe the flavor/taste of a troll and did you hear words of anguish ?????

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

surely this is the wisdom of a ex-AIG ,Freddy/Franny executive.we trusted you once not again !!!!!!

atkist54 7 years, 3 months ago

We moved back to Lawrence after living in Eudora for four years. The original move took place to shorten a work commute. The city of Eudora utility system is ancient in some parts of the town and the profit the city makes from their rundown, antiquated electrical system is unfair. Three years in a row we lost electricity for 4 to 5 hours on Thanks giving day. Eudora has the market cornered on utilities in its town and could care less if someone cant have electricity just because they cant pay for it. How dare that man be terminally ill and need electricity just to live!!! Just some old selfish man!!! Eudora's ancient utility system needs to be renovated and persons put in charge of utilities for that town that know what they are doing. My heart goes out to everyone who lives in Eudora that must use that utility system.

Be ashamed of yourselves Eudora!!!!!!

highfire 7 years, 3 months ago

I would have to say I agree, with all the comments, Eudora needs some other person to handle their utilities. I live in Eudora and pay an arm and a leg for electricity. I love how the city admin says they give 3 notices, uh, no the only notice they give is one notice sent and then a note on your door saying they are disconnecting you. On top of the 10% late fee and 25.00 fee. Ridiculous. I lost my bill one month and took from my bill from the previous month and I was $5.00 short and I got a disconnect notice on my door, for $5.00 I called and asked if I could just add it onto the next bill, NOPE I HAD TO GO PAY THE $5.00 and also the $25.00 fee for them having to come out and hang a notice on my door. It is to bad that they are not under the utility commision, I have called the utility commision and told them of Eudora's crappy utility company but they cant do anything, You would think that I would get 30 days to pay my bill, nope you get 10 days from the date you get your bill, if not you get charged the hefty 10% fee. Bylaw during the cold months they shouldn't be able to cut off electricity, also they should not be able to disconnect anyone with MEDICAL issues. I would say let Eudora disconnect you, then SUE them!!!! I pay a whole lot of money for CRAPPY water and also, and for the road crews not to come out and clear the streets until after the 9:00 coffee break.

CLARKKENT 7 years, 3 months ago




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