BRYAN, TX — Bryan Texas Utilities (BTU) and College Station utilities are at the center of a new protest in the Brazos Valley, as community members are outraged with the utility companies resuming termination of services and late fees.
Monday, BTU and CSU resumed termination of services and late fees after four months of stopping disconnections due to the pandemic.
“At some point, it's got to come to an end, and we know that the governor of Texas wants to get back to business as usual as possible and this is simply business as usual," said Ken Dupre, an accounts manager with BTU.
BTU says currently there are about 2,000 customers that are 30 days past due on paying their bill. They’re asking those customers who may need assistance to call them or one of the partnering non-profit agencies like the Salvation Army.
“We have funds that are specifically designated for those, and we want individuals to know that if they are in need the Salvation Army is here ready and willing to help,” said Lt. Andrea Isreal with Salvation Army Bryan/College Station
While BTU is asking customers that are overdue to contact them, protesters are saying that plan is clearly not working.
“Right now there are 80 people with payment plans set up, so what that should tell us as a community is that plan of just having them contact you is obviously not working. You obviously don't have solutions for them that are for real people in real situations,” said Bryan resident Dan Kiniry.
While BTU says getting back to business as usual, is critical for the non-profit, those protesting say fighting against the utility cut-offs is critical for all members of the community.
“They’re supposed to be a public utility and the role of a public utility is to serve the community and they like to use the word service but if we’re not taking care of the poorest people in our community then that's a lie,” said Kiniry.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the non-profits who are assisting customers to pay their bills. Members of the community say they will continue to hold BTU accountable.
“What we have in mind is to continue to put out there a list of people that have the power to make this change and that is the BTU Executive team, BTU Board of Directors and the city council and mayor. So far, Mike Southerland is the only person in that whole group who has come out in favor to do something to help the folks that are struggling rather than cut them off,” said Kiniry.
Protesters say a boycott of the businesses owned by BTU’s Board of Directors will be the next step of their protest.