By Roger Ball
The Arizona heat can be a killer during the summer if resident do not have air conditioning in their homes.
That can, and has, happened in Sun City West when electricity is shut off due to lack of payment. But Community Fund of Sun City West officials do not believe it has to come to that.
Barbara King became a board member with the Community Fund of Sun City West in 2015. She said she joined that group after graduating from a seven-week program called Tapping Our Resources, Citizens’ and Heritage Academy, also known as TORCH.
The CFSCW was created to provide emergency financial assistance to Sun City West residents who have trouble paying their bills. The board members realize many Sun City West residents have out-lived their savings and rely solely on Social Security to survive, and unexpected expenses cause serious financial problems.
Ms. King said she joined the special needs committee and trained with chairwoman JR Reese, visiting potential clients. On her first visit she said she knew it was someone with health issues, but she didn’t realize she would also be visiting a very hot home during triple-digit weather and how her body would react to the two hours in an extremely hot home.
“JR and I were the lucky ones, though,” she said. “We were there for only two hours, but the homeowner couldn’t leave.”
Ms. Reese said the woman qualified for financial assistance and the fund took bills that the resident requested they pay.
As they were leaving Ms. King said to herself, “I hope the next house isn’t hot.”
Ms. King remembered that first visit when she read a news story on YourValley.net, the eNews outlet of Independent Newsmedia, had the headline, “APS halts disconnection of power for residents behind on payments.”
The article continued to describer how Stephanie Pullman, a 72-year-old Sun City West resident, died in her home after Arizona Public Service had cut off her electricity because her bill had not been fully paid.
The Maricopa County medical examiner listed environmental heat and diabetes as causes of death.
Bob Bass, another CFSCW board member, drafted an email to board members.
“Can we get APS to insert our hotline phone number in their late-payment mailing to Sun City West residents? We could get the Property Owners and Residents Association of Sun City West to assist us in doing this,” he stated
Ms. Reese, board president, said, “This situation is tragic,” and put the discussion on the June board agenda.
Larry Woods, PORA past president, said he was contacted by a community representative of Arizona Public Service to have a get acquainted meeting, and he invited Ms. Reese to the meeting, knowing of the fund’s discussion about promoting the hotline through the utility.
Ralph Johnson, PORA president, said the APS representative is in discussion with the PORA office manager, but nothing has yet been decided.
Ms. Reese said an Arizona administrative code clearly states a utility cannot shut off services to ill, elderly or handicapped persons without a personal visit as well as information of an availability of funds.
However, there is no requirement to advise how to contact someone who may assist, such as the Community Fund.
In the interim the Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees all private utilities, has ordered that no private utility may shut off electricity between June 1 and Oct. 15.
The Community Fund of Sun City West is not affiliated with the Sun City West Foundation, the Recreation Centers of Sun City West, PORA or the United Way. It is a 501c(3) nonprofit charity that relies on public and corporate donations.
Over the last four years board members said they paid more than $370,000 in financial assistance for our Sun City West residents in need
Sun City West residents who need financial help with utility, medical and other bills can contact the Community Fund hotline 623-546-1122.