SAN AUSTINE, (KTRE) - The Deep East Texas Electric Co-Op receives meter readings electronically.
"Software inside the substation that transmits back to the office," said Gina Evett, DEPEC Director of Administration.
When the Pineland substation that serves about 1,100 customers around San Augustine County went down last November they started estimating bills based on their historical usage.
That would have been fine except two things happened. One, the transmitter was down much longer than expected, and two, the weather got really cold.
"Historically unprecedented usages in those months," said Evett.
When the actual usage data finally came in, customers had to pay the difference on their most recent bill. For the Cousin family, who only spent three days at their San Augustine County home last month, this meant a jump from previous bills around 60 bucks to $850 for February.
Their neighbor, Alfoniza Williams, received a bill for more than $500.
"They got higher in December. They've been high for the past four months," Williams said.
The co-op sent a statement to customers explaining why their most recent bills had skyrocketed.
"Everything that could go wrong - did go wrong," said Evett.
For folks like the Williams family and others on fixed incomes paying an unusually high electric bill is a real challenge.
"Can't hardly afford to pay it," said Williams
For those who just can't pay it, the co-op wants you to give them a call.
"We have offered a contract payment plan where they can tell us what they can pay and pay out the rest over six months," said Evett.
The coop has also decided to put a moratorium on disconnecting electricity for customers affected by the substation outage to ensure no one will be left in the dark.
Below is the statement sent by the co-op:
STATEMENT BY GINA EVETT, DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION FOR DETEC:
DETEC recently announced that our Pineland Substation has been undergoing repairs. As a result, the coop members served by this substation have been receiving estimated bills from DETEC covering the period from November 2009 until March 2010.
Now that the substation is back in operation, DETEC is sending bills to members with updated totals reflecting actual power usage during the past three months. Consequently, many members served by the Pineland Substation receiving higher than expected bills reconciling the periods these estimates were used.
Contributing to the situation is the fact that we experienced extremely cold winter weather for the past few months, which also contributed to higher than usual consumption.
DETEC General Manager Larry Warren last week sent a letter to all these members to urge them to contact DETEC if they would like to arrange for a longer payment period with these higher than usual bills. DETEC is happy to work with each affected member to allow more time to pay the bills resulting from the Pineland Substation matter.
DETEC estimates that approximately 500 members have been affected by this delay in billing.
In order to make sure that none of these members are adversely affected by this delay, DETEC will suspend ordering any power disconnects for members served by the Pineland Substation while we are resolving these current bills.
DETEC urges all affected coop members to contact the DETEC office by phone, email, or drop by the headquarters, to let us know how we can work something out with regard to the current bills. We can be reached at 936-275-2314, 1-866-392-2547 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
DETEC is a member-owned rural electric cooperative organized in 1938 Serving 40,297 members in 8 counties…