Marvin Schur may have been worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the World War II veteran was chronically late in paying his utility bills during the two years before he froze to death last month at age 93 in his home in Bay City, Michigan, after his power was cut off.
A review of records by city workers reveals Schur, at one point, went to his own bank to make back payments, but was unable to do so because that bank was not an approved pay station for the city. “Maybe he had dementia. I don’t know that. We may never know,” City Manager Robert Belleman told CNN. Schur’s body was found in his bedroom. Authorities said the temperature inside his home was 32 degrees. A limiter installed a few days earlier had shut off power because of unpaid bills. City officials have said Schur may not have known he could reset the power switch to keep on his gas heat. “It was not an issue of his ability to pay, it was something else, ” Belleman added. According to a nephew in Florida, Schur lived frugally, once telling him he had saved at least $600,000. In February 2007, Schur tried to pay about $350 at his bank, according to a city accounts supervisor. Ten days later, the supervisor says, a city worker made a notation that Schur’s bank was not an authorized payment center. The following month, the same city official says records show Schur tried to pay $876 at a different bank that could accept utility payments. However, the city says its records inexplicably don’t reflect that the payment was made. After receiving a fine for unpaid bills, Schur wiped the slate clean with a $1,000 payment, according to Bay City Accounts Supervisor Tina Cooper.
Death was preventable, relative says
In June and July of 2007, Schur was slapped with more fines for unpaid utility bills, then came close to catching up by paying nearly $1,138. Cooper said that, in 2008, Schur continued to ride a seesaw of fines and payments and more warnings that his power would be shutoff. That led to the installation of a limiter switch January 13 as a warning that he had fallen behind again. This time, records show Schur owed slightly more than $1,000. When Schur’s body was discovered, money attached to utility bills reportedly was found in his kitchen. A city official said Schur’s phone had been disconnected. After Schur’s death, Bay City immediately removed all limiters and promised it would not turn off power to anyone this winter because of unpaid bills. The city commission is also starting a program on March 4 to prevent deaths that enlists mail carriers to watch for anything unusual at homes on their routes. To participate, residents have to enroll and place a sticker inside their mailbox. Mail carriers who notice mail accumulating or anything else that seems abnormal are instructed to notify authorities to check on the resident.