Residents turn up the heat at city council meeting, urging study for RG&E takeover

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The RG&E drama continues. Tonight, hundreds of people plead with Rochester City Council to take action.

They want city leaders to fund a study on replacing RG&E with a public utility company, offering more affordable rates. The heat was definitely turned up in the room tonight. Metro Justice are the organizers who urged residents to come out and air their frustrations about the astronomical charges they are experiencing with RG&E. The first step towards a solution is with funding $500,000 for a study.

The applause was loud, but the pleas were louder.

“As the CEO of RG&E, I would expect you to care about the people you are serving,” said Rochester resident, Larry Moss. “You are providing a public utility, something that everybody needs. I think you should be concerned about your customers. Customer services should be first, you need to provide a service that is affordable.”

Moss says he received a gas bill from RG&E during a month when they didn’t even have any heat. It’s the highest bill since he’s lived in Rochester.

Mohini Sharma with Metro Justice says it makes you wonder where RG& E is getting these numbers that they are billing residents.

She says that’s why it’s important the City Council funds half a million towards a study to have a public utility company like other municipalities. 

“Public utilities are very common and work for cities of all sizes,” said Sharma. “Locally there’s Fairport, Spencerport, Churchville, and nationwide a third of all utilities are public. Across the board, they are cheaper and more responsive to ratepayers. They are also more reliable and invest more in clean energy.”

Pauletta Brown says that’s exactly what she needs: cheaper rates and a responsive utility company. Her RG&E bill was $6,000. She says it’s time for local government officials to step in and do the right thing.

“I was tired today, still haven’t cooked dinner for my family,” said Brown. “Still got to go and make that happen. But I have to stick it out. I have to be here. I have to show up. I have a voice and I am here to use that voice and city hall is going to do something about it.”

Sharma added they are asking the city to fund this study by April 1. Now, RG&E has said they are struggling with staffing shortages as a result of the pandemic, which has caused these billing issues.

Here’s a statement from RG&E:

“Following the devastating impacts of COVID on staffing, RG&E continues to make customer service improvements by increasing staff, resulting in estimated bills dropping by more than 60 percent and continuing to reduce billing issues. These facts, along with past failed attempts at government controlled power in other states, make it clear it does nothing to improve service or reliability, but rather puts taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars while raising rates, jeopardizing needed grid improvements, and halting any transition to clean energy.”

More about calls to take over RG&E:

More about RG&E billing issues: