Thursday's town hall meeting on Camp Lejeune left some military families worried about utility bills for the first time in their adult lives.
On-base housing residents will now be held responsible for their energy consumption and will be receiving electric bills within the next year as part of a new residential energy conservation program being implemented by Headquarters Marine Corps and Marine Corps Installation Command at all Marine installations.
"A lot of families have never had to pay electricity bills," said Dixie Johnson, marketing manager with Atlantic Marine Corps Community Housing. "If they've always lived on a military installation they've never had to worry about that ... and it's a concern for them."
Navy Capt. Craig Fulton came to the town hall meeting from Headquarters Marine Corps to talk to Lejeune residents about the new changes. He said the Department of Defense is implementing the conservation program because research has found that military families on base use far more electricity than their civilian counterparts.
As a result, the DoD will start sending out bills in October to families who use more energy on average than their neighbors and reward those who use less.
"You could, the word is could, be charged for the utilities that you use," Camp Lejeune Base Sgt. Maj. Ernest Hoopii said. "If you're below the average usage of a house of a particular size, then you'll make money... but if you go over that threshold, you're going to be charged."
Every on-base home will be assigned to a category that will group homes based on neighborhood, number of bedrooms, square footage and year built, to calculate the monthly average usage. Residents' electricity meters will be tracked and compared to the average usage of the houses in their category.
Families whose monthly usage is below 90 percent of the average electricity consumed in their like category will be credited with money toward their account, while families whose usage exceeds the average by 10 percent or more will be billed.
The bills sent out from October to December will serve as a "mock" billing practice period to allow residents time to become familiar with the program and assess their energy consumption. Actual billing will begin in the early spring.
Current residents will need to sign new leases agreeing to the energy conservation program before the actual billing begins.
"We need to green," Hoopii said. "We need to use less energy so we can get ourselves out of this deficit ... Everybody has a responsibility, even those in uniform."
Wounded warriors and residents with exceptional family members can opt out of the program by requesting a waiver through the military housing office, but those families will not be eligible for rebates.
There will be more town hall meetings scheduled through March. When meeting dates become official, the times and locations will be posted on the Camp Lejeune website at lejeune.marines.mil.