Rising temps have energy companies looking to collect

WICHITA, Kansas — Despite today’s warm temperatures, it is hard to forget the recent cold snap we’ve been feeling all across Kansas. But the weather has done more than just chill us to the bone as it has left some people behind on their energy bills. Because of the Cold Weather Rule and the rising temps, they could soon be getting disconnection notices.

Cassandra Bell is one resident that has dealt with a lot recently. She has had double hip surgery which has left her with lots of medical bills and now a mounting stack of energy bills.

“I pay as much as I can, but when it’s gone, I can’t do anything else,” said Bell.

Bell is on a fixed income due to her medical condition but doesn’t qualify for services like the low income energy assistance.

“I make like a hundred dollars more a month than they require,” said Bell.

Bell has had the weather on her side during the winter months due to the Cold Weather Rule in Kansas. However, warming temperatures could prove to be troublesome.

“Once the temperatures are back above 35 degrees and forecast to be so for a period of 48 hours or greater then the Cold Weather Rule is no longer in effect,” said Gabe Schlickau, the External Affairs Manager for Black Hills Energy.

The means that the process of disconnecting services is beginning.

Black Hills Energy says they haven’t seen more customers late on payments this year, even though bills have been higher because of the weather. They say they do try to help customers keep their service running.

“If the customer can make an initial payment of at least 1/12 of the arrearage amount and enter into an additional payment plan to make the rest of the payments over the course of the year then we can work with them,” said Schlickau.

Bell says she has made similar arrangements with her provider but still feels there needs to be some sort of assistance given to others who are in her situation.

“I haven’t heard of any programs offered for those above that poverty line, but it would be nice to have those,” said Bell.

Westar says that their cold weather policy is slightly different in that they first mail a disconnection notice before placing a collection call. Then a service person visits the home before disconnecting the service.

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