‘An outrageous amount’: Independence residents frustrated with high utility bills

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- It feels like her head is on fire: That's how one Independence woman describes her anger, having received a monthly water bill for $490.

She and other people living on one street near Sterling Avenue say their electric and water bills have shot sky-high.

Angelica Vigliaturo, a disabled grandmother, and her family have lived in their three-bedroom home for two years, and she said the water service bill she received for more than $400 is stunning and unreasonably high.

"When I got it, I was outraged," Vigliaturo said.

She shares the small home with 10 others. She shared her utilities invoices, which typically cost around $50 monthly, with FOX4. Her bill for the month of June is nearly 10 times that total.

"It's an outrageous amount to expect to come at one house," Vigliaturo told FOX4's Sean McDowell. "Honestly, I don't know why its justifiable for them to say, 'Well, you could be using that much water.'"

Angelica Vigliaturo

A spokesperson for the City of Independence confirmed Vigliaturo's water meter is working fine. An inspector blamed a leaky toilet in the home for the overage, which has since been replaced, and the city offered to split the cost as reflected on the bill.

Vigliaturo blames a broken water main from recent weeks, where bridge work is now being performed on Crysler Avenue.

"We didn't have a flood in the bathroom. It was a small leak in the toilet," Vigliaturo said. "What is your explanation for putting a family of 11 out with a $490 bill?"

Vigilaturo isn't alone.

The Independence Community Awareness Facebook page shows several complaints about high bills for city utilities. One person jokingly suggested forming a GoFundMe page to help pay his high utility bills.

Megan Lewis, a spokesperson for the City of Independence Utilities, said the city has roughly 56,000 water, electricity and sewage customers. Lewis said the city is conducting an audit of its billing practices after a large number of complaints about high service invoices.

"The city is very aware of our customers and the need to maintain positive relationships with them. We're not taking these concerns lightly," Lewis told FOX4.

Next door to Vigliaturo, Britney Lamanske can't believe her bill either. She shared an electricity bill for $654.50 for a single month's service, which is, according to Lamanske, the largest invoice her family has received at that address. The $650 bill is around $400 more than their previous record.

"They need to figure out why we're having such major jumps and hold somebody accountable and fix this. This is not OK. Regular people can't afford these kinds of bills," Lamanske said.

Lewis confirmed Lamanske's bill is accurate, and it reflects kilowatt hours actually used in the home.

She added that the city's customer service call center is busy with as many as a thousand callers per day, which is double the office's total for the month of March. Lewis also said the two neighbors with large utility bills is merely a coincidence.

"If customers see a water main break, or something else that may affect their billing, they need to contact us at once," Lewis said.

There are three methods of contact with the City of Independence Utilities:

  • Telephone: 816-325-7930 (Lewis said the average wait time for callers is 23 minutes.)
  • Email: utilitycustomerservice@indepmo.org (Lewis said most emails are answered within 24 hours.)
  • In-person: The Independence Utilities Center is at 17221 E. 23rd Street South. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.