Long lines for utility assistance

A long line of people filled the Community Services Agency at the Southbrook Mall Monday morning, the first day of the agency's utility program. The county agency will pay up to 500 dollars per year on utility bills for qualified applicants.

Some people spent the night so they'd be first in line to get help. At one point, two lines formed, one on each side of the agency. The confusion led to a lot of arguing.

Many of the people seeking help did not have to line up. Monday was the first day to sign up for financial assistance, but unless a person had a cutoff notice or just wanted an immediate solution, he or she could have picked up the an information packet anytime through Tuesday.

Still, the line was still long and the people angry, even by late Monday morning. Kaye Lawler, administrator of CSA, estimates at least 400 people were in line at Southbrook.

Community Service Agency employees at the Raleigh Springs Mall, another CSA location, said they had 600people in line. It may have been their largest ever.

Lawler says the people really didn't have to stand in line.

"People don't need to be here on the first day," she said, "They could have been served on any other day."

Lawler said most of the people the Southbrook office had cut off notices from MLG&W. She said her staff will go through the applications to see who is eligible for the money.

Last year CSA, a federally funded agency, helped 16-thousand people. They are not sure yet how much money they will get from the federal government this year to help those with low incomes pay their utility bills.