Roommates with disabilities struggle to keep the power on

Tipton-based, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative shut off the power of two disabled adults even though that meant the loss of heat and medical equipment.

Two adults with disabilities and two children live in their modest home in the river bottoms of Wooldridge.

Tipton-based Co-Mo Electric Cooperative shut off their power Tuesday morning, even though that meant the loss of heat and medical equipment.

Tambri Runk and her roommate, Jeff Strom, have disabilities. Strom depends on an electronic nebulizer to breathe.

These two live with another roommate, two children, three dogs and two cats. They prepay their electric bill to Co-Mo Electric Cooperative.

â??The cold hurts.," Runk said. "It really does. The last few days Iâ??ve been walking around with the cane because it hurts so bad.â??

Utility officials said they gave the Wooldridge household plenty of warning before shutting off their power. The cold weather rule that stops utility companies from shutting off electricity in emergency situations doesnâ??t apply to cooperatives, because they're owned by their customers and aren't subject to state regulations.

Strom added that itâ??s not only the cold that hurts.

"Itâ??s the uncaring.," Runk said. "When you try to discuss with Co-Mo Electric the issues that we had and we try explain to them that there are some special circumstances here.â??

Co-Mo Electric officials said all of their customers that prepay their bills get plenty of warning and they provide a list of charities that help people in emergency situations.

Co-Mo Electric Communications Manager John Agliata said, â??Prepaid is a good option because it puts it in the memberâ??s hands. The control of the electricity use is in the memberâ??s hands. You couple that with all of the information we provide on how much electricity you are using a day and when your bill is coming due. We just want to make sure that members are not surprised.â??

The good news is that the power is back on tonight for Runk and Strom. The bad news is that they had to sell some of their belongings to pay this monthâ??s bill.

Co-Mo Electricâ??s prepaid billing system requires a $100 fee. $25 becomes a security deposit, while the other $75 purchases electricity.