County utilities climbing

Published 10:52 pm Saturday, October 4, 2008

Utility customers on all three systems that serve residents throughout the county either have seen, or will see, their rates increase.

“It’s all about the cost of the things like coal and natural gas that you generate electricity with,” said Britt Thomas, who as city manager oversees the City of Brundidge’s utility department. “It’s just not a pretty sight right now with the way everything is.”

In Brundidge, Thomas said residents will not see an increase until January 2009, when about $9 will be added to the average utility bill.

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In Troy, the city council approved a 14 percent increase in utility rates.

And, in September, South Alabama Electric Cooperative increased rates by about $9 per 1000 kilowatts, said Commercial and Industrial Developer Andy Kimbro. The average SEAC consumer uses about 1200 kilowatts per month, so that equates to about $10 per month in increased costs.

Kimbro said SEAC’s rate has been the same rate since 1992.

“They have increased along with every other utility place right now,” Kimbro said.

Thomas said Brundidge hasn’t raised its rates since 1993, but it has passed on fuel adjustment costs to consumers, just as the City of Troy has.

“We haven’t raised our rates since 1993, but we have adjusted the cost based on the wholesale cost many times since that time,” Thomas said. “It’s just been an upward spiral, much like a rocket taking off.”

And, with the rate increases, residents are struggling to find ways to control monthly bills.

In a time when America has more appliances than ever that require power, Kimbro said power usage has gone up along with the rising costs.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of both,” Kimbro said. “There is definitely an increase in usage in the home as far as what’s used, but it is also just as hard for people to cope with what the electric rates are doing right now.”

And with power rates only going up, Kimbro said conservation is a family’s only hope in controlling costs.

“It has got to be energy conservation at this point in time to help people reduce energy in the home,” Kimbro said.

Thomas said utilities costs are something residents can’t avoid paying, but increasing rates is the only option left with rising fuel costs.

“We’re trying to provide more with less, and it’s a struggle,” Thomas said. “Everyday, it’s a struggle.”