THE BRONX — Bishop Troy Johnson has run a small church in the Bronx for about 10 years and during those years the bishop has climbed up on a chair, read the gas meter and reported that number to Con Edison over the phone to pay utility bills.
Those bills were "normal" amounts, according to the Bishop, over the years and nearly every month, the church has made payments. In May, the bill to the Greater Love Deliverance Center was $507.15 but one month later that bill jumped to $10,321.89.
"First I thought it was a big joke. I started laughing uncontrollably," said Johnson.
When he realized it wasn't, the Bishop got on the phone with Con Ed right away. Their only explanation was the church was being undercharged on their gas bill over the past two years. That and a steady tack on of "no access fees" of sometimes $25 and other times $100 added up to the astronomical bill.
Now the church — which is dedicated to helping its community through teen mentoring programs, food donations and clothing drives — is in danger of not only losing its lights and gas, but being shut down altogether.
"It's very emotional. We've helped thousands of people in this community. We've gone to precincts. We've gone to court hearings on behalf of the young people. We've gone to hospitals on behalf of the community. We've served the community for 10 years and it's kind of personal to me," said the bishop.
The bishop says he only wants a fair reading, fair billing and accurate notifications. He believes Con Ed failed to communicate any issues properly until it was apparently too late.
A Con Ed spokesperson tells her the church was being billed based on estimated readings since they were not able gain access to the meters. Con Ed says those estimates were too low. The utility company adds they will get back in touch with the church to work out a reasonable payment plan but in the meantime their utilities will not be turned off.
After PIX11's calls to Con Ed, the bishop received a phone call from the utility company and was told they will need access to the church and would like to look at the meter but they will need access to the premises. Con Ed says they would like to look at the meter before moving forward to resolve the issue.