The Duncan Banner

November 13, 2013

City council: ‘We feel your pain’

Increase of power rates affect every Duncan Power customer

Toni Hopper
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — In the simplest language, Duncan City Manager Jim Frieda told the people at Tuesday’s city council meeting, that with the approval of a power cost increase, residents would be paying an increase of $3.36 more per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

“If you are paying $19.40 now, then you will be paying $22.76 per 1,000 kilowatt hours,” Frieda explained, and included an example printout in the city council packet, which is public record. The estimated fuel component embedded in the rate base is 3.4 cents per kWh, according to the packet which was originally produced in September for the October council meeting.

The resolution set forth and ultimately approved by all council members, in Tuesday’s meeting, brought about quite the discussion from the few residents in attendance.

One of those was Thomas Joy, a Duncan resident now for 10 years. Joy and his wife, who lives with an oxygen tank round-the-clock, have a $750 monthly income to make ends meet.

“Our bill is fairly high but we pay on time or ahead of the due date. Three dollars may not be that much for you all, but $3 is a lot for me,” Joy said. Later, he again spoke, mentioning that and the mandatory $5 monthly recycle fee he’s against and can’t afford. He said he doesn’t even use the cart. Between the upcoming power adjustment and the recycle cart, the Joys have at minimum, for 2014, $100 per year less to spend on their basic living needs.

Joy wasn’t the only one in the audience to voice displeasure about the cart.

 Though the city couldn’t make any decisions regarding the public’s outcry, they did take time to listen to them and try to help them understand why the rate increase is necessary. As it was pointed out, everyone, including council members, will have to suffer the hike in fees.

“A lot of thought went into this. We don’t have much choice in  this, but if you want electricity when you flip the switch, then you have to pay it,” said Mayor Gene Brown.

Councilman Ritchie Dennington talked about how, because of issues at the top of the government helm, coal is becoming less available and natural gas, which is more expensive, he said, is what is offered.

“This is a bad situation, we all feel the pain, but the city can’t keep absorbing costs. We understand the hardship. We have to do what’s best for the city,” Dennington said.

Earlier this year, the city began considering a rate increase to offset absorbing the costs which are trickling down from the top level in the power industry.

A 10 page packet on the resolution had been set for consideration for the Oct. 22 meeting, but was tabled. Frieda said that was so council could consider all aspects.

He said the issue had been covered extensively by several local news outlets, but his office had not received even one phone call in regards to the increase. Councilman Ricky Mayes said he received only three calls.

“Two were really strongly opposed and one was opposed but understood it was a pass through,” Mayes said.

Additionally, Frieda explained that many of the older contracts with power suppliers have expired. In the council packet recommendation, Frieda outlined that in the last three years, the city’s power company, Duncan Power, has been faced with increasing wholesale costs. That includes purchasing hydroelectric power, fuel costs normally applied under the current rate schedule and third is fuel transportation costs. That third issue is increasing anywhere from 5 to 9 percent depending on how much hydropower, natural gas or coal is used in any month. Fuel contracts were renegotiated in April and May and the increases were substantial, Frieda noted in his recommendation.

The same resolution was approved by the Duncan Public Utilities Authority, which is comprised of the same city council officials. That meeting was held after the council meeting concluded.

During that meeting, resident Effie Moody approached the council. She had entered the meeting shortly after the discussion had been held during the council portion of the evening. She wanted to know what cost they would be paying, at which time Frieda outlined the $3.36 increase as stated earlier.

Moody also voiced her displeasure at the recycle cart program.

“They turn around and sell that so it should be (picked up) for free,” she said.

Mayor Brown concluded the meeting in expressing appreciation for the public attending and sharing their concerns.

He told them that if they aren’t on the agenda, they can’t address the item, but that all concerns are recorded.