Mayor Hears Complaints From CenterPoint Customers

"You're trying to do your duty. You're trying to take care of your people. And you've got this powerful company that's standing here in your way," John Cole, spokesperson for the Smith County Taxpayers Association, described the city's fight against CenterPoint Energy over dramatic increases in customers' natural gas bills.

Customers voiced their concerns tonight in front of Mayor Joey Seeber. The meeting was organized by the Taxpayers Association at the county courthouse.

"Our gas utility, you don't have a choice," Seeber said. "If you're going to have natural gas and you live in the city of Tyler, you're going to have to use CenterPoint."

The story of a monopoly.

It's not news that the city of Tyler has sued CenterPoint, accusing the company of using a price manipulation scheme to hike natural gas rates. What was news to the customers' ears is the city's uphill battle.

Mayor Seeber said even if the city wins the lawsuit, he's still not certain that CenterPoint customers will get the refunds the city is seeking.

"And I would hate for people to have an expectation that that's what's going to happen," Seeber said. "We just don't know what's going to happen."

The people at tonight's meeting represent only a fraction of the customers outraged at CenterPoint and vocal about it. The mayor brought 600 letters customers have sent to the Texas Railroad Commission.

"In February, we got a $129 gas bill," one woman said to the audience. "And it's been turned off since the 22nd of January. And we're still getting all these bills."

Just one of many stories shared tonight. Others came from people you've heard from before on KLTV 7, like one man, who has a $944 bill to pay and a 75-year-old woman whose bill keeps on doubling.

But there were stories of hope -- one told by one woman, who saw results after getting more than 100 neighbors to sign a petition to the Railroad Commission complaining about CenterPoint.

"We've gotten from $50 to $100 difference in our gas bill," Opal Washington, a member of the Texas College Neighborhood Association, said.

Good news for them, but the others are left waiting, hoping their city will come out victorious.

Mayor Seeber says the Railroad Commission should have a final decision on the lawsuit on Monday, April 25.

Before then, he plans to take a group of Tyler CenterPoint customers to Austin to lobby for their cause.

Julie Tam, reporting.