MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Sometimes just the pictures can make you cold. The scenes around Memphis on the day after Christmas were enough to freeze you to the bone.
Memphis doesn't do snow and cold well. For most folks it's simple: bundle up, turn on the heat and don't worry about the bill. At least they don't have to worry about it for now. "We have what we call the holiday bill break," says Glen Thomas of Memphis Light, Gas and Water. "Customers are protected from cut off between December 15th and January 14th."
The program is unique to Memphis. Private utility companies normally don't offer these programs. The Memphis plan has been around for years, but it has recently changed. The plan changed because there are a lot of people who owe a lot of money to MLGW, and end up even deeper in the hole after the holiday bill break.
"We have a requirement," Thomas says, "that you get your balance down under $399 before the holiday bill break takes effect. And the reason we do that is to keep customers from compiling a really high balance if they have trouble paying off at the end of that."
This is the basic issue when it comes to just about everything Memphis Light, Gas and Water does. It is a utility company. It is also part of Memphis City Government. For MLGW to do a lot of what it wants to do requires approval from the Memphis City Council. The Mayor appoints the President of MLGW. So company brass often find themselves sitting on the hot seat.
"You want to balance the business side of things with the compassionate side of things," Thomas says. "Having the $399 threshold keeps the balance from getting too high, but still protects those in need."
MLGW will not cut power on days when the wind chill is at thirty two degrees or less for twenty four hours.