COLUMBIA - The City of Columbia has the authority to cut off electricity and heat on some of the coldest nights of the year. Greg Stratton, a father of five, said his family was lucky to have back up options but were dismayed that the city does not have to follow the Missouri Cold Weather Rule.
"They don't have to abide by this law then you can end up getting sick or possibly something worse and I'd hate to see that happen to someone else. We weren't even a full 30 days behind until two days after they shut us off."
Lynn Cannon, Assistant Finance Director for the City of Columbia said that there is an extensive process to notify people that their utilities would be disconnected.
Cannon said, "Anyone that is having a utility disconnected is notified five days in advance with a letter and they also receive a telephone call a day before disconnect is scheduled to give them ample time to come in and make a payment."
Stratton said he never received those notifications.
"They didn't call my cell phone. They didn't send notices saying 'hey you're going to get shut off'. Somebody just showed up at our door and said hey you are 28 days behind so we are going to shut you off. We couldn't fight them or nothing," said Stratton.
Cannon said at the time the Stratton's utilities were turned off the Missouri Cold Weather rule would not have necessarily applied anyway.
"Although the weather may have been projected to be below 32 degrees in the evening it wasn't at the time of disconnect. If we were going to have 3 days in a row of 19 or 20 degree weather we more than likely would not go out and do disconnects knowing that it is going to drop below for a significant amount of days. As it progresses more in the winter months we do try to look at the forecast," said, Cannon.
Stratton thinks it is a morality issue.
"We had to go stay at a friend's house with five kids and make sure everyone was safe. It's a bad situation. There are people out there with worse situations than I have. If this is how they do business how long before it ends up being more than just five children having to cram into one bedroom for a night?"
Cannon encouraged anyone who may face getting their utilities shut off to get assistance from the CASH program which is geared toward elderly people and the H.E.L.P program for people with children which is run by the Department of Health.
Although he eventually made the payment and reached out to local programs to receive assistance for the payment, Stratton would still like to see the City of Columbia have to abide by the cold weather rule.
The Missouri Cold Weather rule went into effect November 1, 2013 and will last until March 23, 2014.