Soldiers say electric bills unpredictable at apartment complex - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Soldiers say electric bills unpredictable at Hattiesburg apartment complex

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz opened an investigation Thursday into electric bills being sent out to soldiers living at the Eagle's Trail apartment complex in Hattiesburg.

SFC Hector Diaz and his two roommates are soldiers based at Camp Shelby. The three live in the apartment complex, and they live there in the dark; in fear of a high electric bill.

"I've hit myself at night you know trying to get to the kitchen," said Diaz. "We don't turn nothing on that we don't have to."

The three men try not to turn on the television, often wash their laundry at Camp Shelby, they cook three days worth of food at once so they do not have to heat up the stove, and one of the men hoards blankets – he is not good with the cold and they agree not to turn on the heat.

"We figure the less we use it, the less we're going to pay," said Diaz.

However still, the electric bill they receive from the complex was $167 dollars last month – and it is not just them.

"A lot of soldiers we talk to each other you know we ask 'Hey how's your electric bill' and they're like 'man it's crazy it's too high'," said Diaz. "Once we all got together we started looking at our bills, you know we realized hey something is wrong."

Dozens of military personnel live at the complex, where the government at one point housed soldiers, and many chose not to move when the military housing agreement ended. In a lease deal for soldiers, rent included electricity, so they are only supposed to be charged if they use too much power and run over what was the electric cap stipulated in the housing contract. In addition, the apartment gives soldiers $25 credit, to put towards that run over.

Diaz was charged $30 last month. Yet soldier David Ickes lives across the hall, says his apartment uses electricity constantly – video games, lights on, laundry loads nearly every day – a he had a $19 bill.

The billing appears unpredictable. Soldiers say that when they have asked about their bills in the office they are given the run-around. "It's like pulling teeth from them every time you go in you get a different story," said Ickes.

Soldiers have been told to call Mississippi power – the complex's utility provider – but call and are told that there is only an account for Eagle's Trail, not residents. The complex gets the bill and determines who and how much to charge.

Corporate offices contacted WDAM late Thursday and a representative there said that residents are allowed to see their bills any time they would like, and could not explain why the soldiers had not been shown their bills when they had asked.

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