Some in Mishawaka confused by higher utility bills - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Some in Mishawaka confused by higher utility bills

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Mishawaka Utilities Customers knew it was coming, but they're still experiencing some sticker shock after a rate hike went into effect. Back in November, the city council approved a 14-percent rate hike to residents' electric bills.

That means change is happening to the electric bills of Mishawaka residents. Property managers and residents in communities where the heat runs on electricity, like Creekside Terrace Apartments, say they're taking a serious hit. "There's only so much that we can cut back," says Mary Sexton, who has lived at Creekside for almost 3 years. She says, "What's going through my head is 'Am I going to pay my bills and feed my daughter?'"

Tom Grzedzicki has lived at Creekside for seven years. He says he knew there was going to be a 14% increase, but he says the math is off. He says his bills nearly doubled from December to January . "I think most people can accept the 14% increase, but this is a 100% to 110% increase," says Grzedzicki.

Dan Balogh is in charge of maintenance at the apartments. He was puzzled when he saw a high charge for an apartment that's barely in use... in fact, it's just for storage. "There's no lights on. All the lights are stripped and the wires are capped," he says. The unit that is strictly used for storage - no lights, no appliances, just a furnace - had a bill that jumped from $73 dollars to $186 dollars. Balogh says Mishawaka Utilities couldn't explain to him why an empty apartment used 18-hundred kilowatts in a month.

Many residents have tried to talk to Mishawaka Utilities for answers. One of those residents, who has been going back and forth for weeks with the company, is Michael Brandenburg, who says, "They brush me off. When they find out I have the evidence, they don't want to talk to me about it."

We called the General Manager at Mishawaka Utilities. He told us the price increase would be too complicated to explain in a TV interview. He said customers could bring their electric bills in and have them explained by customer service. So, we asked if we could join a customer and tape the explanation. That request was denied as well.

Creekside Apartments property manager Cindy Nichols is now left to wonder what the February bills will look like. She says she's already lost two potential tenants after they asked about the cost of utilities. She says, "I'm not a politician.  I'm not going to lie to them.  I'm going to tell them the truth about what's happening in our city: That our utility bills are going up. [With a] 68 degree setting on their thermostat, they're going to be paying over $200 a month for electric."

Another problem is residents are starting to look for assistance on their utility bills. Creekside Apartment residents tell us they tried to get help from Mishawaka Utilities, but since they are apartment renters, they don't qualify for assistance. That's where Penn Township Trustee Janet Whitfield-Hyduk stepped in to see if she could lend a hand. She says the township has a budget for cases like this, and many residents have already put in applications. "My concern is that I don't want to see somebody have to choose between paying a utility bill and eating, or paying a utility bill and buying medication to live. So that's why we wanted to go out and see if there's something we can do," she says.

Whitfield-Hyduk says if Penn Township can't help, they work with a lot of other agencies they can refer those in need of help with their electric bills.

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