Fort Pierce residents say they can't afford utility bills, FPUA defends their rates

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Glenn and Joyce Chastain both work full-time jobs in Fort Pierce, and still struggle to pay their utility bills.

"I've heard told people have to go get bank loans to pay their light bill," said Glenn.

The Chastains could soon be without any lights, because they couldn't afford last month's $565 bill, which is more than a hundred bucks higher than their mortgage. They said the month before that, their bill was $774.

"It's almost to the point where you have to say, well, what am I going to pay? Pay the mortgage or pay the light bill?" said Glenn.

Levette Dixon with the Fort Pierce Utility Authority said the bills seem higher because it's a bundle of electricity, water and more.

"We try to educate them that it is not simply their electric bill," she said. "It is all of their services that they receive."

Chris Williams with Concerned Citizens United of Fort Pierce says he's already submitted more than a thousand petition signatures to try to change the FPUA board to a citizen board.

He and other residents have let commissioners know they hope one day power will be provided by Florida Power & Light.

"That's 1,371 people signed this petition that are fed up of what is right now and they want to see a change," he said.

But Dixon says FPUA's rates are not significantly higher than their counterparts.

"FP&L does happen to be the lowest utility provider in the state of Florida," she admitted. "They are, actually, petitioning the PSC at the moment for a rate increase," she said.

According to representatives, FP&L could raise their rates, but it would only be by $1.50. Reps say they would still by far be the lowest-costing utility provider. FP&L says FPUA ranks 17th out of the 55 Florida power providers for the highest rates, and FPL is the lowest, ranked #55.

Dixon said the FPUA is looking at potential rate decreases that could come soon.

"We have already drastically cut FPUA rates over the past several years through attrition and other methods," she explained. "We hope to soon have another base rate decrease."

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