Holly Springs Utility Company leaves customers figuratively and literally in the dark

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:41 PM CST
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MARSHALL COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - Since the start of the ice storm that swept through the Mid-South this week, customers of Holly Springs Utility Department (HSUD) have been calling, emailing, and messaging our newsroom, frustrated with the lack of communication coming from the utility company on when their power will be restored.

“It was Tuesday morning, about five minutes until six, and it has not come back on yet,” said Williams Huddleston.

Huddleston lives in the Mt. Pleasant community, 15 miles North of Holly Springs, and has been a HSUD customer for 15 years.

Fortunately, he had a generator running when we went to his home Thursday morning.

Turns out, he bought the generator in 2021, after severe thunderstorms left many HSUD customers without power for days, weeks for some.

He didn’t want to be without power again, due to the negligence of his utility provider.

“We have seen no light crews out here, nowhere,” Huddleston said. “If we pay our utility bills, they should provide our power.”

His neighbors aren’t so lucky. Huddleston mentioned he has a 101-year-old woman who lives across the street from him.

“(The neighbor’s children) took her to her sister’s house yesterday because of the cold, no heat, nothing,” he said.

“We have elderly people that live down here, and a lot of them don’t have the money to come out and get a generator and get it running and get it up,” said Caroleen Crews. “They’re just in their homes.”

Crews lives just down the road from Huddleston. She moved there only a year and a half ago.

She said she and her husband wanted to get out of Memphis and live out in the country, but she quickly followed by saying if she’d known about the dysfunction of HSUD, she wouldn’t have made the move.

Huddleston said he’s called HSUD repeatedly but can’t get through to a customer service representative to report his outage.

In one instance, he said he was rerouted to a third-party customer service line out of Texas.

“They were like, ‘Alright, we’ve got your information.’ They said they will pass it along to Holly Spring Utility and will give me a call back as soon as they’re updated on something,” said Huddleston. “That was Tuesday.”

“When you call, you get a recording, and then they pull up your information and notate that you’re in an outage area,” said Crews. “I’ve never spoken to a human there, ever. There’s no communication. You just have to kind of guess.”

We tried communicating ourselves.

HSUD has a long list of numbers of leaders and supervisors on its “Contact Us” section of its website.

We tried the General Manager Donald Warren, the Electric Superintendent George Humphreys, Humphreys’ assistant Michael Howell, and the Customer Service Supervisor Sherhonda Barksdale.

Every single number sent us to the same automated operator that hung up on our call because the call volume was too high.

Their emails? No response.

We even contacted Holly Springs Mayor Sharon Gipson’s Office to see if she would comment on the matter.

Her assistant took our information and said an HSUD representative would call us.

We never got that call.

“North Central has a large area,” said Crews. “Chickasaw has a large area. MLGW has a large area, but they manage it. HSUD does not manage it.”

HSUD provides four utilities: electric, water, gas, and sewer to most of Marshall County and neighboring Benton County.

These neighbors feel weather events are becoming too much for HSUD to handle.

“We want answers,” said Huddleston. “Why won’t they call for help? Memphis, North Central, Entergy, anybody, why won’t they do it?”

What’s more upsetting is bills with HSUD, according to these two neighbors, have been steadily rising.

They certainly don’t feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

One solution to these utility woes would be to merge with a larger, neighboring company, but as we’ve reported before, that would take an act of state legislation.

These neighbors are inclined to push for that option. Crews said she would be thrilled if someone else took over.

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