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RPU customers upset by higher bills, utility responds

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ROCHESTER Minn. (FOX 47) -- Many Rochester residents are outraged and confused after seeing higher than normal utility bills for July.

Stacy Jensen, who's lived in Rochester her whole life, says her bill has never been as high as it now.

"When I got the utility bill it was over $400 and last month it was $268. It's literally over doubled since March," she said.

Through a post on the NextDoor social media app, Jenson learned many others also had a spike in their bills.

One Slattery Park resident said their bill went up more than $100 last month.

Jensen said it's hard to believe her bill would grow as high as it did.

"Its just kind of crazy to see that kind of increase with no explanation, especially in a pandemic. If it was any other type of subscription, I would cancel it," Jensen said.

We asked Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) what the issue might be. We were told a big issue is thermostat setting.

"What RPU recommends, or what utilities recommend, for comfort to take the humidity out the air is about 78 degrees," said RPU communications coordinator Tony Benson. "A lot of people don't set their AC at 78 degrees. They set it at 65, 68, 70. It's using more electricity so your bill will be higher."

Benson also said the pandemic is playing a role with more people at home during the hottest part of the day. On top of that, July was hotter than June and July's billing period was longer by a week.

Still, many customers are claiming their behaviors didn't change. Some weren't working for home, and the extra week wouldn't account for the amount their bills went up.

As for dealing with high bills, RPU has payment plans and a program designed to help people lower their monthly costs.

"RPU rebates. We have rebates for customers when they make energy efficient, water efficient purchases. We'll give them a rebate back, that'll help offset their bill some, as well as having less usage ongoing each month," Benson said.

Looking ahead is one thing, but the current amount due is burning a hole in the pockets of many residents.

"I don't have last month's bill to compare it to but either way I know it's a big jump and everyone else has noticed it," Jensen said.

RPU Is hosting an online workshop on September 17th aimed at helping people be more energy efficient.

KaMaria Braye

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