MLGW cutoffs increasing

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - 65-year-old Margaret Smith sits in the dark every night.

She cannot afford to keep her lights on, and says she feels somewhat ashamed of her predicament.

"I don't like this at all. This is embarrassing and everything."

The electric meter on the rear of her house has been frozen since MLGW cut off her power.

Her son Rodney lights candles inside, while his mother fears the day it's no longer warm enough to sit outside.

"Well, I'll get up under all them quilts, and make it," Smith said.

More people across the Mid-South are finding themselves in the same situation.

According to MLGW, there were 50,262 residential cutoffs from January to August of 2007. That number rose to 69,743 cutoffs during the same period of time this year. That's an increase of nearly 20,000.

"I'm sure the economy has something to do with it," said MLGW spokesman Chris Stanley.

The utility provider points to its various programs designed to help customers make their payments.

"We never want to cut a customer off. That's always a last resort for us," said Stanley. "And we want customers to call us and let us know if they're having difficulty. That way, we can try to work with them, and that's what we want to do."

Smith, who is battling a number of health problems and living on a fixed income, says she has become somewhat accustomed to life without utilities.

"I've learned a lot of things you can do on a grill."

Smith's son says they're trying to come up with $700 to restore the power.

Customers who are experiencing difficulties paying their utility bills can call (901) 544-MLGW.

If you would like to give the "Gift of Comfort" to Mrs. Smith, click here.

Click here to e-mail Jason Miles.