Citizens need answers about electric bills

Published 10:53 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To the Editor:

What a surprise to discover the city’s early Christmas gift to local businesses — enormous additional charges for our electric bill. I was stunned to learn why: It made a “mistake.” I disagree. A mistake is using the wrong fork for your salad or setting your garbage out on the wrong day for pick-up. Mis-billing for 28 consecutive months is gross mismanagement.

Where were the supervisors, the auditors, the people in charge who let this “oversight” continue for 28 months?

To make matters worse, now the city is asking the businesses to correct the city’s error by ponying up additional dollars that were never billed. The city tells us we can pay the amount back in monthly installments. How kind.

Offering a payment plan is no solution; the debt is still the same. What they fail to understand is that we are not demanding a payment plan but a reason as to why this negligence took place and why we are responsible for correcting the city’s mismanagement.

Anyone who runs a business will tell you — you have to run your business in a lean-and-mean manner, especially these days, or you don’t survive.

That means developing a budget, sticking to that budget, reviewing that budget and adjusting that budget when the unexpected takes place. The first step in managing that budget is knowing what your expenses will be and managing them responsibly. When someone comes to me and tells me: “I forgot to bill you two-and-a-half years ago, but help me out and give me what I forgot to ask for,” then you are imposing a potentially crippling demand on many of the small businesses that are the foundation of our city.

If the city comes to us and warns us that electric bills could be increasing in the near future by 20 percent or more, that’s one thing. We may not like the news, but at least we can prepare accordingly. But to come to us almost three years later and say “you need to give us money we forgot to tell you about,” you are shutting the gate after the horse is out. I manage my budget on a strict basis, and in these lean economic times, I’m not in a position to bail out the city when it makes huge mistakes.

Asking me for thousands of dollars is mind-boggling. We all make mistakes, but we learn to pay for them, learn from them and move on. We don’t ask others to repair the damage for us. Obviously the city believes otherwise.

At a time when the city should be encouraging small businesses to thrive and succeed, it has decided to put a knee in our gut and its hands around our throats. Speaking for myself, I would prefer to let a judge decide if we are responsible for correcting the city’s mistakes — mistakes brought about because of its negligence and mismanagement.

Chuck Gatten, president

Floor-to-Ceiling, Franklin