Earnest Wall received a high water and gas bill and did what anyone would - he reported it to City Hall. Soon, he was the subject of a fraud investigation.
The city cleared Wall of any wrongdoing, but the war veteran still needed 12 On Your Side's help contesting the outrageously high bills.
Wall was candid and said because of his severe PTSD, he was concerned about having a conversation with the folk at the utility department and feared his actions or responses may be misinterpreted. NBC12 took on his complaint.
"The service has been off and nobody's been in the home," said Wall.
The prospect of being liable for what Wall calls erroneous bills totaling $1,900.00 in water and gas usage was crushing for the Persian Gulf War Veteran.
“I'm on a fixed income, and it’s just putting additional stress," said Wall. "I have severe PTSD, anxiety and depression, and I'm not sleeping well. This is just exacerbating everything on my plate."
Wall is trying to buy his deceased parents' Carytown home. Any outstanding debts, he says, would derail his plans. He just couldn't take the chance, so he called 12 On Your Side for help.
"I'm already being affected by my military injuries and trauma," said Wall. "I don't know how it occurred. I just know that I haven't used anything, received any service. Nobody's been here, and I have an enormous debt."
Wall says he began getting bills long after the utilities were turned off and he had evicted former tenants. He claims the gas and water bill jumped a thousand dollars in six months, and no one was living in the home.
He didn't feel confident enough to question the city himself.
"Things have been difficult, and I've been trying to do the best I can with the little Social Security money and pay bills, but with the outrageous water and gas bill, it's no way," said Wall. "I'm hoping that we can get a resolution with the city, and the city maybe for my hardship and my service will maybe work with me. I don't need a hand out. I just need a helping hand."
NBC12 On Your Side made several calls and emailed the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) communications director. While DPU did not speak with NBC12 about Wall's specific account, after some back and forth, the City of Richmond erased $650.00 from the bill and set up a payment plan with Wall for the remaining balance.
He says he’s grateful and satisfied with the outcome.
"When I reached out to 12, it was like Jim Danny to the rescue. Diane Walker, I knew I needed help, with the severity of my conditions. I didn't want no suicide episode or anything like that, so I knew I needed help. God bless you, and keep helping the community in such an impactful way that you do."
If you get an unusually high bill utility bill from Richmond, contact DPU’s Customer Care Center at 804- 646-4646. DPU says it will look into every high bill complaint and conduct an investigation.
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