RICHLANDS, VA (WVNS)– Utility rates in the Town of Richlands increased 20 percent in the last two years and residents are looking for answers as to why.

Citizens who are on the Richlands Power System are angry with their town council because of what they call fluctuating utility costs. When residents like, Laura Mollo and Sharon Horton ask the council why they said they can never get a straight answer.

Town Council member, Doug Ratliff tells us in the past two years, rates increased twenty percent. Residents say that makes it difficult for those on a fixed income.

Ratliff explained a portion of the money collected from the utility bills is being used for projects around the community.

“To this day, they are taking close to a million dollars a year off the top of the electric fund using it on their project and that causes the rates of the citizens to be very high,” Ratliff said.

Horton says she has two kids and her bill is regularly no more than four hundred dollars. But, back in December of 2021, she saw her next bill increase to $858. She said she’s had to keep her daughter from cheerleading and stop shopping at local businesses to be able to afford to keep on the lights and heat. She’s even resorted to selling some of her own personal items.

“Our electricity bill takes every penny that we have. And I’ve even had to borrow from family members to say, ‘Hey, I’ll pay this back.’ I’ve had to ask for assistance and help. It’s been crazy,” Horton said.

The problems don’t stop there.

If a resident is unable to pay their bill by the following Tuesday, the town terminates their utilities. And the town recently released the proposal for additional rate increases for water (2.6% increase), sewer (16.1% increase), and electricity (0.14093 per kWh).

Resident Laura Mollo said she thinks this will drive out the remaining town citizens.

“We’re running businesses out, running residents out. We have people who are getting their electricity and water turned off because they can’t afford to pay such high rates. And everybody mirrored that and just told the council how we can’t survive this way,” Mollo said.

Ratliff said the only solution for this is for the residents to vote in the upcoming elections.

The town council will meet next Tuesday, April 19, 2022, to discuss the proposed budget for next year.