SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – An American Legion post in Springfield says it received a bill for $5,880.13 from Springfield City Utilities – for charges incurred while the building’s gas meter was broken during the pandemic shutdown.
A Jan. 26 letter alleges the meter wasn’t working correctly from April 2020 to July 2022 – and CU is requesting Kirby Wilcox Bicentennial American Legion Post 676 pay the balance in full.
Post 676 General Manager Ann Humphreys told The Heartlander the letter claims her establishment is not at fault for the defective meter, but said the amount would still be added to the post’s March bill.
“April 20, 2020 is when Springfield closed down (for the pandemic). We were closed,” Humphreys said.
The city of Springfield slowly began lifting COVID restrictions and the Legion was functioning again by May 2021. But the post was not notified about the broken meter or massive bill until now. Humphreys says it is a coincidence that CU determined the meter was broken the same month the post closed for the pandemic.
“Twenty-seven months, and nobody noticed that our gas meter was not right? How in the world can you do that? They said, ‘You need to watch this stuff.’ I’ve gotta do my job and your job? I don’t think so.”
An attorney who frequents Post 676 wrote a letter to CU that, according to Humphreys, earned a short and unfavorable answer, and in which dates for the estimated charges were finally revealed. CU could only provide estimates, with no evidence coming from usage numbers.
“Now, since it has been (in the news), they won’t talk to us at all. Now it’s just under review. That is all we are getting. They’ve got free rein to just stomp all over us. It’s that much money that we can’t pass on to the community because we’ve gotta give it to City Utilities for their faulty equipment, and that doesn’t feel good at all.”
Last December, KY3 News warned CU customers of unexpected charges due to dead meters. The NBC affiliate reported CU workers found 389 dead gas meters and approximately 120 dead water meters in recent months, with the average bill sitting at around $900. Customers will reportedly have 24 months to pay, with options to make payments.
KY3’s December story included an intriguing thought from CU board member Clif Smart from a prior board meeting.
“If it’s our fault, I would be inclined to ask city council to waive the collection on the accounts,” Smart said. “It’s not significant money. No one is really going to have to pay for it. We have plenty of reserves. We got millions in reserves to cover what’s a very small amount. I would be inclined to say this is on us.”
Per CU policy, residential customers can only be billed up to 12 months for a faulty meter, though Humphreys says businesses can be billed for up to two years.
When the post began talking numbers with CU, Humphreys says the company’s representatives began clamming up and claimed they would review the charges, but Post 676 has heard nothing since.
Local resident Caleb Arthur has started a GoFundMe campaign to help the American Legion Post 676 raise money toward the unexpected amount. In addition, in a TikTok video Arthur and Sun Solar announced donations of $500 to the cause, and have offered to match other contributions up to $3,000.
As of Tuesday, the fundraising campaign has garnered $610 out of the $3,000 goal set by Arthur.
Humphreys told The Heartlander other donations have come into the establishment, and any excess funds will go back into the community.
Still, she wryly joked about what may happen if the bill isn’t paid or waived.
“What we told people was, ‘In April, you may just have to bring a bag of ice and a flashlight. We don’t know if we are going to have utilities or not.”