City officials frustrated over Woodland Park’s failure to pay energy bill

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – City officials in Evansville are demanding answers after news that CenterPoint Energy started telling residents at Woodland Park Apartments their power and gas could be shut off by the end of next month.

Woodland Park apartments have been on the city’s radar for some time, over ongoing concerns regarding trash, crime and now this utility payment issue.

“I’m not optimistic they’ll fix it but I’m optimistic something will be done,” Evansville Social Justice Network President William Payne said. 

In 2020, Rev. Payne gathered more than 500 signatures asking city leaders to hold the landlord of Woodland Park accountable for reported unsafe living conditions.

“Right now we have just come to a point where everything is at a head and everything that was asked from the petition has come to a place where they have not followed through on their part,” said Rev. Payne.

Payne said he’s heard hundreds of complaints over the years. He says now the focus has shifted to the affected tenants, who are at risk of having their electric and gas cut off by late August. 

“So it’s about the tenants for me making sure their cost of living and their livelihood are at the forefront of this issue, not about who gets paid,” Rev. Payne said. 

Fourth Ward Councilman Alex Burton says the situation is dire. He said plans are already in place to assist residents that may become displaced.

“We have created a document to literally go door to door tally how many people are living there and really just figuring out some information and data points and really process the magnitude of what is happening,” Councilman Burton said. 

Wednesday night Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told Eyewitness News the city and Centerpoint Energy were able to work with the apartment complex management to avoid water service cutoff including trash collection in March 2021.

“Piles and piles of trash were accumulating all around the campus and finally public pressure encouraged them to do the right thing and get new vendors in there,” Winnecke said.

The mayor said on Thursday the city was notified from CenterPoint of the potential electrical utility shutoff at Woodland Park. “We’re hopeful the landlord is able to do what is needed to keep utilities connected,” Winnecke said. 

The Evansville Housing Authority said the apartment complex has until 5 p.m. Friday to make a payment plan with CenterPoint – or face the possibility of residents with government vouchers breaking their leases and leaving the property.

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