As many as 20 of some of the most impoverished homes in Bridgeport, Texas lost electric services today, Thursday, February 18, 2010, and most of them were Hispanic households, according to Bridgeport resident Amanda Johnson. This loss of power came just two days after Bridgeport Mayor and City Council members faced off with angry citizens of the community over extreme electric bills at a highly-publicized city council meeting.
During the meeting several residents presented their cases before a city government in a citizen-packed municipal building in Bridgeport, raising cheers and jeers from the crowd. Several times during the staff-prepared presentation, hecklers commented to the contrary of a staff member’s comments. Many times, the crowd was caught laughing at staff members’ statements, and other residents’ rebukes of city management of the sole electrical provider to residents—the City of Bridgeport.
“No one should have to pay an electric bill such as ours,” Candace Jones, a 30-year resident, said during her presentation to the council, gaining a roar of applause.
After many questions and demands against what she called a “monopoly” of electric services, a Bridgeport business owner stood at the podium to announce that out of his eight car washes in Texas, the highest electric bills he pays are in Bridgeport, adding he pays 12 percent of his business revenue for his Bridgeport business’ electric bill. He said the only way to only way to make up for that expense is by raising customers’ costs.
Many other similar complaints came from various Bridgeport electric customers, including using funds retained from utility payments for the city’s general fund. However, resident Julie Cortez showed up armed with documentation that not all businesses and residents face the same dilemmas. She said during her “investigation,” she discovered that one of the local hotels—La Quinta Inn—paid $88 per month for electricity for 18 months for the entire facility. Cortez said she felt everyone else in the city was required to make up for the “city’s mistake,” by paying higher utility costs.
“You don’t brush it under the rug,” she declared. “I’m cannot pay this bill, nor am I going to pay this bill,” referring to a recent $995 electric bill for her 7-year-old home, adding that she had a petition with 150 signatures representing people opposed to the increased utility bills in the community.
One thing residents and city officials did agree about was the electricity services provided by Wise Electric Co-op to residents all around Wise County was much less expensive than what the city currently offers. Bridgeport City Administrator Rachel Huitt admitted that her electricity provider is the Co-op.
“My house isn’t that bad,” she said.
While many direct questions and demands left unmet during the meeting riled up some of the residents, Bridgeport Mayor Donald Majka pointed to a few residents during the meeting, instructing them to show up at his office during business hours to handle the situation. Although there is no way to know which of those residents actually received assistance from the City of Bridgeport, none of them could have been the 20 could have been those living in the households on the West side of Bridgeport that lost power today. However, it is possible for all customers who feel an injustice against them to report their utility company to the Texas Public Utilities Commission.