As the economy continues to spiral downward, I become more and more concerned about utility shut-offs. I attended a news conference recently when Mayor Tom Henry stated that City Utilities has experienced a fifty percent increase this year in water service shut-offs.
City Utilities officials noted at the news conference that many customers having problems paying their bills this year have never had problems in the past. The City Utilities figures are not surprising to me since Wayne Township has experienced a 46 percent increase in requests for assistance during the same time period.
No one wants to see a family lose its utility services. But, unfortunately, funding to help families in need of assistance with their utility bills is becoming more and more limited.
To stay within our budget at the Trustee’s Office, we have chosen to place caps on the amount of utility assistance each client is eligible to receive. That way we can stretch our dollars to help more people; although those we help may receive a smaller utility allotment. We felt that was the best way to deal with our budget limitations.
I so much wish Wayne Township could help every deserving client with the full amount of utility assistance they need. However, if we cannot pay the entire utility bill for a client, we work hard to look for other ways we can help.
We educate clients about other possible sources of help with their utility bills. We often take on an advocacy role for our clients with utility companies by trying to work out payment plans the client can handle or find another solution to the client’s problem.
I am proud to say that the Wayne Township Trustee’s Office has developed a very good working relationship with City Utilities that greatly benefits our joint clients. As the Mayor stated at the news conference, the problem of shut-offs is a community problem. We all must work together to help our residents who are in need.
Another way our community has come together is in response to our coat drive. I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who took our plea for coats to heart. I also want to thank the media for doing such a great job publicizing our need for coats.
At the conclusion of our coat drive, we should have several hundred coats to distribute for free at our Healthy Cities Health Fair and Veterans’ Stand Down on October 24. Our Health Fair and Stand Down provide much-needed free health screenings and health care to over 600 uninsured and underinsured residents of our community, as well as providing the participants with coats and other services.
We will be continuing to accept donations of coats up to October 22. We need all sizes from infant to adult. Our most needed sizes are extra-large and larger.
Our Health Fair and Stand Down is an event that makes me so proud of my office and of our community. It is a true community effort to help those who cannot afford health care.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee