Lubbock Explores Ways to Help Poor With Bills - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/26/06

Lubbock Explores Ways to Help Poor With Bills

Two days ago, police found a couple dead inside their central Lubbock home and the cause of death was hypothermia. The couple did not have running utilities inside the house. Now, the Lubbock city council is taking action to help the elderly, and the indigent, who are struggling to make ends meet.

The idea came from councilman Tom Martin, but councilman Floyd Price, councilwoman Linda DeLeon and the city manager LeeAnn Dumbold will take the lead on the program.

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Atmos pays the city of Lubbock a franchise fee, and the plan is to use part of that money to help those in need.

Mamie Young has lived in Lubbock for 55 years. "I came here in November of 1951. It was cold and snowing. I moved here from Lorenzo," Young said. All these years later, she now lives in an apartment for senior living. She lives on a fixed income and sometimes does not have enough money to pay her utility bills. Bills she says that keep on getting more expensive. She is even on budget billing. "It's terrible," she said.

There are probably hundreds of people in Lubbock like Mamie who are struggling to make ends meet. The death of an elderly couple made the city council aware that no one should have to die because they can't pay their bills.

"We owe it to our fellow citizens to be able to help when we can," said councilman Tom Martin. The city charges Atmos a 5% franchise fee to use city right-of-ways to deliver gas service. Martin says Atmos ends up paying the city more than $1.7 million. Martin says the city might be able to spare some of that money. "My idea was to take additional money, above what we've budgeted that we are receiving, and contract with Catholic Family Services. We want to make that available to help low income and elderly who are having trouble paying gas bills," said Martin.

Mamie says she likes the idea because she has exhausted every means of help she knows. "I think that's a good thing. We need help from somewhere," she said.

The city is also challenging Atmos to contribute corporate money equal to what the city contributes. In three weeks or sooner, the city will know when they will implement this program.

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