Lumberton hurricane victims question high utility bills

Lumberton power bill

LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – As Robeson County continues the long road to recovery from Hurricane Matthew, several viewers in Lumberton have reached out to News 13, upset over high utility bills–even though most had no power for weeks after the storm.

Develon McBryde, her grandson Dwayne, and her friend Valeria McInnis have–like many in Robeson County–had a tough year. The family had to flee their home just days after the storm as flood water and power outages crippled the city of Lumberton.

“We evacuated on the 10th,” recalled McInnis, a family friend who lives in the home with Dwayne and his grandmother. “That was that Monday, and we didn’t come back here til November 13th.”

That’s why the family said it was shocked to get a more than $200 utility bill for a month in which they had no power, and were not at home.

“I realized it was $223,” McBryde said.  “I know I hadn’t been to my house since the 10th of October.”

McBryde said while her billing period started on the 24th of September, the bill for the month of October should not be that high. She called the city, who told her that they would check the meter again. The city did discount some of the amount, but McBryde said her utility bills have actually increased in the months since.

“My sewer went up and my water went up as well,” she explained.

Lumberton City Manager T. Wayne Horne said he could not comment on specific cases, but suspected that some of the confusion could be over billing periods.

“The storm hit on a certain day,” Horne said. “You may have folks with ten to twenty days that hadn’t been billed out yet, that’s what a lot of them are seeing.”

Horne said workers regularly check the meters to ensure accurate billing, but didn’t have specifics on whether meters were checked during and after Matthew struck.

As far as McBryde’s bill, there was no past-due amount in the days before the storm, and she said she just wants some answers.

“I just wanted someone to come in here and investigate,” she lamented. “I feel like they’re getting over on people and it shouldn’t be like that.”

Horne said anyone with a billing question should contact the city and that they will do their best to work with customers on a case-by-case basis. We reached out to a spokesperson with Lumberton Power but have not yet heard back.