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Grand Rapids non-profit hit with $50,000 Consumers Energy bill

Posted at 5:38 PM, Apr 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 17:45:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A non-profit science center in Grand Rapids received a $50,000 bill from Consumers Energy after the company estimated their reader for 18 months.    They had to find a way to pay it, or they risked closing their doors.

The Geek Group had to find a way to pay the bill, and spent a year fundraising and scraping together the money.

"You don't have a choice, it's Consumers," said Geek Group owner Chris Boden.  "It's a really simple option: pay the bill or shut down the company.  Pick one."

Boden says the Geek Group is a non-profit where anyone can come in off the streets if they have an idea, and bring it to life.   He isn't arguing that they didn't use the electricity, but says Consumers Energy should have been more responsible about billing.

"We are a little science center. We are nerds. We have a shoe string budget," he said.  "A $50,000 bill nuked us. It set off a chain of events that nearly put us out of business."

A year later, the Geek Group is almost paid up, and they now have a smart meter.  It's the one thing Boden seems to agree with Consumers on, saying everyone should get theirs installed.

"Smart meters are a good thing," he said.  "It's scary because it's different, it's scary because it's change.  And they are look 'ooooo' they are going to know what we are doing.  No, they are going to know that they are using a little bit mroe electricity at 7 a.m. than you were at 6 o'clock."

Boden acknowledges that not ever business would have been able to come out from under a $50,000 bill, but for now it's back to business as usual.   He says that since the smart meter was installed, they haven't had any problems with their bill.