CANTON, Okla. (KFOR) – Small businesses in the city of Canton claim they’ve been experiencing extremely high utility rates recently. Many businesses doubling, tripling and over quadrupling in average rates.
Several small business owners told KFOR since Summit Utilities took over late last year, their bills have been skyrocketing.
Owner of Movie Poster Service, Cleophas Wooley, who also happens to be on the town’s city council, told KFOR his bills average around $250 a month at the highest, but since new utility ownership took over, his monthly bill went from $214 in November to $628 in December and then $764 in January.
“The town of Canton has had double the number of charges since Summit took over… I don’t know what to say other than I think it’s ridiculous. Some are just getting rich and it’s not the ratepayers,” said Cleophas Wooley, owner of Movie Poster Service in Canton.
Wooley is not the only one with high bills. Several other businesses in the area are now struggling to keep up with rates.
“It’s very concerning. Even our rates at our businesses in the town have doubled. Some of them have doubled and tripled in the town. Even our fire department, our animal control, all of that,” said Debbie Robinson, president of the Grand Art Council of Canton.
The city’s Vice Mayor and president of the Grand Art Council of Canton told KFOR, Summit Utilities hit their non-profit organization at the small theater in town which provides free shows and movies to their community. They got a bill of $428 in January, after just paying only $43 for the month of December.
“We don’t turn it on if we don’t use it. But I can see our bill more than quadrupled and our only income is our thrift shop that we have next door, and by donation. So, this is devastating to our pocketbooks, our town and also to our community,” said Robinson.
Debbie Robinson is also a small business owner herself. She said her company’s utility bills were also over double during the month of January.
“Ours is typically like $200 or $198, and our last bill was $385… and we’re only open four days a week,” said Robinson.
Owner of a Mexican restaurant, El Charro in Canton, said his utility bills average between $700 and $800, but he’s now seeing around $2,000 a month in utility rates.
“I just hope, maybe a commissioner or somebody can do something about us keeping an average utility bill,” said Carlos Delgado, owner of El Charro in Canton.
Summit Utilites told KFOR, this spike is due to high gas costs.
“What they’re seeing, as far as an increase in their bill is due to the actual cost of gas. It is not related to the acquisition of CenterPoint Energy by Summit Utilities. Utilities are regulated by the SCC or the Oklahoma Corporation Commission… The cost of gas is a commodity price and it’s based on market, market supply and demand,” said Brian Bowen, senior director of external affairs for Summit Utilities.
Brian Bowen with Summit Utilities told KFOR the pandemic along with Winter Storm’s Uri and Elliot have increased demand which raised the price.
“The cost of gas and the increase that our customers are seeing in their bill is just a pass-through expense. So, our customers pay what we pay for the gas,” said Bowen.
Bowen also said they’re seeing a downward trend in the cost of gas.
“We hope that that trend continues so that we can pass that on to our customers,” said Bowen.
People in the city of Canton told KFOR the spike is also affecting residents in the area, for some their bills have nearly doubled.
Summit Utilities said if you’re wanting more information about your bill, you can contact their customer service line and they will be happy to walk you through all costs on your bill.
That information can be found here.
The Oklahoma Customer service number is 1-866-275-5265.