Church forced to close by Hurricane Michael receives monthly $100 utility bill

By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
May 16, 2019

MARIANNA, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Jackson County church that was devastated by Hurricane Michael is still in limbo.

The pastor of Jerusalem A.M.E. Church on Highway 73 in Marianna says their utility bill adds to an already difficult situation.

The pastor says the church hasn't been used since Hurricane Michael hit back in October. He doesn't understand how their utilities bill manages to be over $100 every month.

Pastor Carlos Redding said, "We had a big oak tree that slammed into the corner of the church and knocked down the wall."

Winds from Hurricane Michael then lifted the roof, allowing rain inside of the church.

"It was flooded with a good about inch and a half of water. You can tell where the water was saturated into the wood," he said.

They had to gut the church. But, Pastor Redding says by the look of the utility bill, you'd think the church has been in use.

"They're charging us wrong because the meter is correct. Even on the bill it tells you that it used zero kilowatts," he said.

Pastor Redding added, "It makes me feel like we're getting robbed in the church. It's a shame when you're going through a process of trying to heal. Not only it's the church, but the people in the community, everybody is talking about they're having high rate utility bill. But, the company doesn't want to help us understand."

Pastor Redding says funds are low because church membership has dwindled to about 80, and many of those aren't able to travel to the church's temporary location for service.

86-year-old Ruby Keel is a lifetime member, and worries for the survival of the church.

"How we're going to do it, I don't know. I'm praying it gets built back like it was," she said.

Pastor Redding says he'd like for the company to delete the church's bill, at least until they can rebuild and reopen.

"Maybe if it was like $20 and they said it's just for taxes or something. We probably could understand that. But, $123 just doesn't make sense," he added.

Florida Public Utilities released a statement: “While we are unable to discuss specific customer account information for privacy reasons, we have reached out to the customer to seek a resolution and to ensure they have all of the information they need regarding their bill.”

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