Light bill woes

Published 11:15 pm Thursday, February 5, 2009

Choosing between using the heater or eating dinner are not choices anyone wishes to make.

But since Brundidge residents saw their latest power bill increases, that’s a choice Terry Weimann said she makes each day.

“Are we going to pay our lights or eat or go to the doctor?” Weimann said, as she sat near a space heater in her dimly lit home.

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Weimann, who has lived with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren in the same house for 10 years, said her $374 power bill last month, which came after a fuel adjustment in utility bills passed on in January, was the highest it’s ever been.

“We’ve unplugged everything we’re not using, turned the refrigerator down, and we’re starting to put clothes on a line to dry,” Weimann said. “We’re on a fixed income, and I have kids to take care of.”

In January, Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas announced power bills would see a jump, though the council did not vote to increase their rates any.

The spike came after Brundidge’s power supplier PowerSouth adjusted its wholesale rates to the city by just more than 10 percent. Now, that cost has been passed on to consumers, adding around $9 extra for every 1,000-kilowatt hours used each month.

And it’s a cost, some local residents aren’t sure they can keep up with.

“Back in the hottest month of the summer, my bill was only $138, and my AC was going on all night long,” Weimann said. “But in Christmas, when we were wearing shorts, this light bill was $374.”

Of that $374 bill, fuel costs were $147, just $1 shy of the amount charged for actual power rates.

Dot Laney, who lives on Main Street, said her utility bill increased $100 more than it was in the last month.

“I have storm windows and a new supposedly efficient heat pump,” Laney said. “I’ve done everything I can to reduce the amount. I don’t know anything else to do except freeze.”

Laney, who is retired and lives alone, said she doesn’t understand why power charges continue to rise, but she doesn’t blame the Brundidge City Council solely for the utility spikes.

“Everybody’s having such a terrible time — can’t afford to eat, don’t have insurance and are losing homes — and yet, the government is not putting a cap on the price of utilities,” Laney said. “I don’t work, so I’m not going to lose a job, but I certainly feel for those who might.”

But not all residents said they even notice the increases.

“I hadn’t noticed all that much of a difference,” said Rue Botts, who lives and owns a business in Brundidge. “I realize everything else is going up, and it’s costing our city more to get the electricity and they don’t have any choices.”

Ramage said the power bills in Brundidge may seem high, but they are competitive to surrounding areas.

“The bill is no higher than all your competitors. Everyone’s cost has gone up,” Ramage said. “And honestly, it’s not going to get any cheaper.”

But, while Ramage said power costs are likely going up in the long run, there are no new rate increases planned, only possible rate changes.

The council will consider, after a meeting on how to read utility bills, changing the way Brundidge calculates its power rates.

“It would show the rate would go up and the fuel cost down, but at the end of the day, your bill would be the same no matter how much it was,” Ramage said.

A meeting will be held March 10 with the council members to give residents a chance to go over their bills with city officials and voice concerns.