Responding to a story in the issue of the Flyer that hit the streets yesterday (Wednesday May 9th), two Memphis men say they tried to pay the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water bill for a struggling south Memphis single mother. However, when they called MLGW both men say that the utility's operators hung up the phone.
The two men, who have asked to remain anonymous, read the City Reporter story about Mamie Parker, a single mother of two severely asthmatic children who rely on a breathing machine for their lives and health. Parker, who is also caring for her mentally handicapped adult sister, says that the utility has vowed to turn off her power on May 11th if her entire bill is not paid in full. If her power is turned off, the children's breathing machine will not function.
The bill, which is currently more than $400, is a hold-over from this winter's natural gas crisis and MLGW' s billing, which the Flyer reported was 25 percent over the national average. In her job as a custodian at Rozelle Elementary School, Parker makes $300 every two weeks. She says she has asked the utility numerous times to be included in the much-heralded SmartPay program, which divides steep bills into smaller monthly payments. Each time she has asked to be placed on the program she says she has been turned down without explanation. Parker also says she has asked to have a separate line in her house to power the breathing machine and has been denied this as well.
The two anonymous benefactors, who do not know each other, each told the Flyer that when they called MLGW's general information line they were transferred several times and when they said they wanted pay Parker's bill, the line went dead. Each man then called a second time, only to have this experience repeated.
MLGW's chief communications officer Mark Heuberger, did not accept or return three telephone calls prior to Wednesday's story and did not accept or respond to a call from the Flyer on Wednesday. The Flyer also left messages for MLGW President Herman Morris which were not returned.