Brundidge power bills to drop?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Brundidge residents could soon get some much-needed relief on their monthly power bills, if the council chooses to implement the changes suggested in an electric rate study.

The electric rate study, conducted by St. John Engineers, proposes the city increase the monthly minimum bill to $24 from the current $7.50 minimum for residential customers. The minimum bill is the lowest a resident with power in the city of Brundidge can be charged.

However, the cost per kilowatt-hour will decrease to about 10 cents per kilo-watt hour from the current price of a little more than 12 cents per kilo-watt hour.

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David St. John, of the engineering firm was on hand to present the information to the council.

PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, who supplies the city of Brundidge with power, decreased the cost of wholesale power by 6 mils on Sept. 1, so Brundidge residents will see a slight decrease in their upcoming bills anyway. But residents will see even more savings if the council votes to implement the new policy.

This decrease comes after the city was hit hard with a fuel surcharge in 2008 and voted to pass the increase on to customers in January. With that increase, customers were charged $62.96 for fuel on 1,000-kilowatt hours. And the total for 1,000-kilowatt hours, which is just above the average for the residents in Brundidge, would be $135.80 including tax.

Breaking the cost down the total includes, the $62.96 in fuel charge, $7.50 minimum charge, an energy charge of $60, plus the 4 percent tax.

“What David is going to present is a different side of this than we have ever done,” said Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas.

The suggested model for electric bills is set to help residents, especially low income residents who tend to use more kilo-watt hours, Thomas said.

“Most of our low income residents, don’t have up-to-date appliances,” Thomas said.

But, just how much will this new model help residential customers?

For a customer who uses 1,100-kilowatt hours, the current price is $142.75 before taxes, but with the new system they would only pay $134. That’s a savings of $8.75.

And the more you use, the more you save. A customer using 2,265-kilowatt hours currently pays $286 but would only pay $250.50 under the new plan.

That’s a savings of $35.50.

For customers who use less than 750-kilowatt hours, they will see little or no savings. In fact, customers who use 500-kilowatt hours would pay $5.02 a month more with the proposed plan.

Still, St. John said most residential customers use more than 500-kilowatt hours, even if they are being thrifty with their power usage.

While, customers could see a decrease in electric bills, it’s possible they will see an increase in water and sewer rates.

However, according to St. John, who said he calculated the difference on the spot, it would only cost the average customer about an additional $2 total every month.

“I think the power decreases will offset a lot of what we saw on Mr. Mobley’s presentation,” St. John said.

Max Mobley, the city’s consulting engineer and president of Polyengineering, suggested the city have a $2 increase for sewer and $5 increase for water.

According to Mobley, the city is required by the EPA to review its sewer rates periodically to insure that sewer system operation and maintenance costs are recovered through a system of sewer chargers that is structured in such a way as to insure that each class of users pays in proportion to its impact on the system.

In 2003, when Brundidge last reviewed its sewer rates, the sewer did not pay for itself since one of the primary load-bearer closed.

But, that has since changed with Wal-Mart Distribution, Southern Classic Foods and Supreme Oil South contributing to the load.

Still, with the sewer rate increase, Mobley said it still doesn’t get it on a self-sufficient basis.

“These rates do not put sewer on a self-sustaining basis, but they will come pretty close,” Mobley said.

As for water, the city made a $4,560 profit in 2006, but saw a $202,489 loss in 2007 and a $247,029 loss in 2008 and is expected to see a $46,370 loss in 2009.

These losses are due to nonrecurring repairs and maintenance.

Mobley told the council that $305,000 is required for general operation and maintenance, $95,000 in allowances for nonrecurring repairs and maintenance, $40,000 for capital improvements, $123,183 for water-related debt service, for a 55 percent increase.

This means that the standard meter residential minimum would increase from $8.65 to $13.41, and the per thousand gallon charge would increase from $1.56 to $2.41.

Mobley said that since the council didn’t increase the water rates a lot in the last increase, it was hurting them now.

“The fact that we didn’t do a whole lot of water is hurting us,” Mobley said.

According to Mobley, Brundidge isn’t the only city that will have to pay more for water.

“Everyone is going to have to pay more for water,”

Still, Thomas emphasized that the council would try to keep it as low as possible.

“We try to keep it as lean as possible,” Thomas said.

And while, the city has no choice but to meet EPA standards on the sewer-end, they are in complete control of the water side, Mobley said.