78-Year-Old Mercedes Man Questions High Electric Bill

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MERCEDES – A retired Hidalgo County man on a fixed income said he's struggling to pay his electric bill. 

Robert Castillo said paying bills is tough every month, especially when one of them jumped up around $30. For a person on a fixed income, he said that can mean the difference between eating and keeping the lights on.

Castillo said in the extreme heat of the South Texas summer, he must live in a cool home.

"I'm 78-years-old, I gotta have air conditioning. It's too hot," he said.

Castillo said he received a bill a couple weeks ago stating that he owed $132.80 on Aug. 1.

His previous month's bill was $101.60. He said the average electricity bill during summer, since he moved in to the home two years ago, was at around $100 a month.

Castillo said he did not use the air conditioner any more during the last billing period than he did in the previous one.

"When I leave this place, I turn the air conditioner off," he told CHANNEL 5 NEWS.

He said he went to the main office at his mobile home park and asked for the extra amount to be taken off his bill.  He told them he had to make changes to his daily routine due to the higher bill and has to cut back on his food.

CHANNEL FIVE NEWS went to the main office at Castillo's mobile home park, Llano Grande. One of its managers, Kim Poyer, agreed to speak with us off-camera.

Poyer said the park serves as a pass through for Direct Energy out of Houston. She said Direct Energy has had no increase in rates.

Poyer added electric bills almost always go up during the hot summer months but said she understands Castillo's concerns. 

The manager invited Castillo to visit the main office and bring up the issue with the management team at Llano Grande. Poyer said she and the park management will determine how it can help him pay the extra amount, but the park cannot cut the bill.

Castillo said he is OK with speaking to the park management to negotiate payment.

Retired Hidalgo County residents living in poverty have places to look for utility bill assistance. Depending on whether a county resident can qualify for the program, the Hidalgo County's Community Service Agency is available to assist with utility bill payments.

Also, Catholic Charities in Hidalgo County can provide assistance to retired citizens or those in need. A county resident must speak to one of its case-workers.

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