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Man Left in the Dark after 20-Year-Old Charge in Light Bill

2 years 3 months 4 weeks ago Tuesday, April 10 2018 Apr 10, 2018 April 10, 2018 5:37 PM April 10, 2018 in News

BROWNSVILLE – A 20-year-old charge in a light bill has left a Brownsville man in the dark.

He says the utility company claims he owes them money.

Resident Fred Martinez's typical light bill ranges from about $200 to $250. But recently, he noticed there was an added past due amount of $270.

At first, he didn't think much of it, he said, but when he was notified his light was set to be disconnected, he was confused.

"They had discovered that I owed something from 20 years ago," Martinez said.

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board is charging him from an account under his wife's name from 1998, he said.

He admits they lived at the apartments where the balance is from but can't recall if that bill was paid or not.

He said BPUB doesn't have proof that he didn't pay and should forgive the balance.

"Like I told the lady, ‘If you and I were in a court of law, you wouldn't be right and I wouldn't be wrong,’" Martinez said. "The computer is saying I owe it but because I can't dispute it 20 years later, I don't have a remedy? This should be done away with."

BPUB Spokesman Ryan Greenfeld said as per city ordinance, debts owed to BPUB cannot be forgiven no matter how much time has passed.

Greenfeld couldn't speak specifically about this case but said when more than one adult is listed on an apartment lease, all adults on there are responsible for any debts owed to BPUB.

He said if someone owes BPUB, they will not be able to get services at a different residence until the debt is paid.

Greenfeld adds the light company is always willing to work with customers and arrange payment plans. However, the debt has to be paid, he said.

If it's not, the customer's services will be disconnected.

Just as CHANNEL 5 NEWS left Martinez's residence, a BPUB worker arrived to re-connect the light.

Greenfeld said reconnection only happens when a customer pays the outstanding balance or makes payment arrangements.

Martinez said he hopes that Brownsville residents can soon have more than one option for an electricity provider.

"Ninety percent of the Valley can shop around for their electricity rates prices, we can't," he said.

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