Osceola residents to protest high utility bills

OSCEOLA, Ark. - - A number of Osceola residents are trying to keep the lights on while they struggle to make ends meet. They say their utility bills have skyrocketed and they don't know why.

Kathrene Turner says, since November, the electric portion of her bill has averaged $500 a month, but it used to only average $200 a month. She lives in a rather small two bedroom house.

"It's impossible that somebody is running that much lights," she says, "And nothing is running in my home but the TV."

With the increase, she says her overall utility bill is averaging $700 a month.

"I'm on fixed income and also, I have other bills I need to pay. If I don't pay my light bill, my power get turned off. If I don't pay my rent, I get kicked out. So, I have to make a choice of which one I'm going to pay and it's hard," Turner says.

Her friend, Mary Smith, says it's like this for a lot of people in town.

"Don't nobody know why the bills are so high," Smith says.

An Osceola Municipal Light and Power spokesman says rates haven't changed since 2016. He also says the higher bills are likely due to recent cold weather. But Turner says her usage hasn't changed that much.

"Y'all just might as well come on and just admit it that y'all are robbing people," Turner says.

She's been paying enough to keep the power on, but her current balance is roughly $1,300.

"I cannot drop down a big payment when I have other bills to pay," Turner says.

Turner and a band of others plan to take signs and protest the utility bills outside the Osceola Municipal Light and Power building Friday morning. One of the signs, for example, will say "Demanding answers".

These residents are not convinced that the higher bills are just because of the weather.

Osceola Municipal Light and Power says it's working on a plan to help residents make their homes more energy-efficient and get those bills down. It involves workers coming in and checking things like insulation.