People in Winona question bills for deposits on utilities already in service

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 12:17 AM CST
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WINONA, Mo. (KY3) - The small community of Winona is still dealing with the fallout from an audit years ago.

Many in the town are now outraged over high utility bills that recently went out.

They believe local leaders are once again trying to take advantage of them.

Dozens of people showed up at city hall Tuesday night for an emergency meeting. All of them had one question, why did they get a letter asking for hundreds of dollars in deposits on utilities many have had for years.

“We’re tired of trying to figure out whether to pay for groceries or pay for electric. We’re the poorest county in Missouri,” said Crystal Dailey.

“Most of these people and most of these families have been here 20, 30, 40 years,” said Jonathon Mansendick.

As soon as the emergency meeting was called the board of aldermen went into a closed session.

Once outside many took the opportunity to vent their frustrations.

Dailey said, “Everyone here got a letter whether it was an application that they hadn’t filled out, which they did or deposits that weren’t paid that probably were but money was stolen and documents destroyed. How do we know, how do they know that they owe this money?”

“The system as it is is baked for secrecy. We want the information to understand what decisions are being made that impact us directly, in our daily lives”, said Michael Phoenix.

Dino Romeo, “As a city we haven’t been documenting so everything kind of gets done behind closed doors mostly.”

“There’s no trust here because there’s no open door for people to ask the questions to get the answers they need,” said Phoenix.

About 40 minutes later, the board of alderman called everyone back into chambers.

Mayor Shane Plunk wasted no time addressing the community’s concerns.

“We have had a complete misunderstanding. I’m going to make it short and simple, disregard the letter. Rip them up. We’re good,” said Plunk.

Not satisfied with simply being told to forget the bills for deposits on electricity, the community demanded further explanation.

“This all happened before this board got on,” said alderman Carl McIntire.

A woman in the room asked, “Well, who brought all this up all of the sudden?”

“It was the audit,” said Plunk.

“It’s through the audit, said McIntire.

“The state audit we had,” said Plunk.

McIntire said, “We’re still fixing stuff.”

In 2018, at the public’s request, Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway looked into Winona’s books and found more than $40,000 in tax payer money missing.

Plunk told the crowd that the idea behind the letter was to protect the community from future financial loss.

“We can’t fix what happened in the past so we have to concentrate on moving forward,” he said.

But many at Tuesday’s meeting say they still believe there’s more to this story.

“We have to be able to ask the questions to get the answers so that we could all take part in what we want to do with our town going forward,” said Phoenix.

After the meeting we asked the mayor to clarify.

We asked, “Why did he say the letter was sent out by mistake and why can customers now rip it up and not pay those deposits?

He declined to make any further comment.

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