Power Company Charges Customer To Remove Cat From Pole - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Power Company Charges Customer To Remove Cat From Pole

MEDICAL LAKE, Wash – From credit card debt to new television sets, a lot of us can think of ways to spend $400. A local power utility thinks it should be used to help get a cat off a power pole.

Aaron Lawrence watched for four days as someone's cat sat on a power pole in his neighbor's yard outside Medical Lake. He worried the cat would touch a live wire and damage the transformer providing power to him and his neighbors.

He called Inland Power on Saturday, February 12. A dispatcher informed him he would be billed if linemen were sent to the area to investigate the cat.

Lawrence and his utility disagree on what happened next. He says he asked about options, including whether he should rent a bucket truck himself to get the cat. The utility says he used offensive language and threatened to get a truck on his own.

Either way, a crew was dispatched. Linemen were called at home, away from their families, on a Saturday night when they were not scheduled to work.

The crew arrived, found the pole and started their truck. The sound apparently scared the cat off the pole and into the night.

Lawrence thought the story was over until he got his power bill at the end of the month. Inland Power charged him more than $385.

"There's people that work a full week and don't even make four hundred dollars," said Lawrence.

The utility insisted they were "quite clear" they would charge the man if they dispatched a crew on the weekend. Authorities at Inland said they would probably not have charged him if the incident occurred during business hours when scheduled crews could have investigated the situation.

"I just don't see billing me four hours for a truck showing up and leaving," said Lawrence. "That's the part that really irritated me and got me angry."

Other utilities in the Spokane area were split on whether their policies would have allowed them to charge a customer in a similar situation. Each utility said it would probably be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Lawrence is still thinking about whether or not he will pay the bill.  The utility is still thinking about what to do if he does not pay the bill. Lawrence said an operator threatened to send the matter to collections.

KHQ Local News Reporter Anthony Gomes contributed to this report.

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