Residents and business owners demand new utility company after rate hike

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Hot summer temperatures are causing utility bills to rise, and some Fort Pierce customers say their electric bills are getting so expensive they now want a new utility company to take over.

Keeping the lights on inside Spirit Life Church of God in Fort Pierce forces Pastor Howard Riley to make big sacrifices.

“We look at the bill and we’re like wow,” he said.

According to him, their last electricity bill was more than $3,000 higher than the previous month, and he fears the bills will go down anytime soon.

“We put tin foil on the church windows to keep the heat out,” Howard said. “We have replaced the chandeliers with LED lamps, we are doing everything possible to reduce costs, turning off the air conditioning.”

It must also reduce its aid to the people they serve-

“We help so many people in need and now we’re here,” Howard said. “I literally spent my day yesterday texting my family and friends asking them to support us.”

The church will not be able to help with school supplies or serve as many homeless people.

“I can’t stand the fact that I had to look at a family yesterday and tell them I’m sorry I can’t help you,” Howard said.

Howard has now joined a growing petition to sell Fort Pierce Utility Authority to Florida Power & Light, in hopes of reducing utility bills.

The petition has garnered over 400 signatures.

“These are residents coming together and saying what can we do? How do we make our voice heard? It is a way.

WPTV contacted the FPUA regarding its thoughts on the petition but did not receive a response.

However, on Thursday, the FPUA announced that Mustard Seed Ministries has made $50,000 available to help customers struggling to pay their utility bills.

The FPUA is also developing payment plans for customers, as natural gas prices are said to have more than doubled.

The Florida Municipal Power Agency, which supplies power to the FPUA and other state utilities, says all municipal utilities are seeing price hikes.

FPL has bought into smaller utilities before, like the Power Company of Vero Beach about 4 years ago, after residents wanted lower power bills.

Ultimately, Howard wants customers to have choice.

“Signing petitions, attending city commissioners’ meetings, making our voices heard, not just sitting around and complaining,” he said.

A client group is also meeting on Monday to discuss forming an official committee to formalize petition signatures and propose a ballot measure or special election to vote on whether to retain or remove the FPUA.

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