Clinton residents seeing spike in power bills again

People living in Clinton are experiencing higher than normal power bills. Some said they saw bills nearly double over the past couple months.

Residents had similar issues back in July and August, and city officials said they were going to fix the problem.

The city manager in Clinton, Frank Stovall, admitted power bills are high in the city.  He said a lot of that has to do with a contract the city is in until 2035 with Piedmont Municipal Power Agency.

Clinton uses a program called “power cost adjustment.” It was voted in by city council in November of 2014 as a means to collect more revenue to cover the costs of purchasing electricity from the agency. The city calls it “fairness in billing,” but it used to be up to the city to pay the remaining costs once its citizens paid a flat rate and usage charge.

Overall, Stovall said the price adjustment is low. He said for this past billing cycle in January it only added 37 cents to customers’ bills.

“The cost of electricity changes it goes up it goes down each month, and that charge is added on when the cost of electricity goes up,” Stovall said.

The cost adjustment is separate from overall usage which is what people are primarily billed for using.

Stovall said when people saw spikes over the summer, it was because the city had experienced a mild spring, and suddenly, people were using more power because it was hot outside. He said now people are seeing higher bills because of the chilly temperatures.

But, customers don’t agree that’s the issue.

“It’s very hard when you’re on a fixed income, actually my wife has gone back to work because things are tough,” said Darrell Ward, a power customer in Clinton.

Ward said his house is mostly gas, but every month his power bill fluctuates. He could see bills near $200, and the next month it could be around $400.

“We never know when we’re going to have an easy bill or a bill that’s through the roof,” Ward said.

He said it’s upsetting, and he and his wife have even considered moving.

The city manager said the city is working hard to get the problem handled without risking making things worse later down the road.

“One of the challenges we face is we want to make sure when we make changes to the rate in the future, we want to get it right the first time, so the city doesn’t see a significant financial shortfall,” Stovall said.

He said the city has taken steps to make power bills easier to handle for their nearly 4500 customers. The city hired independent rate consultants, reduced administrative fees associated with accounts, created a program where residents can pay bills in installments, allowed residents to get a discount on their power bill if they signed up for a program that aids energy conservation, and they also created “Clinton Community Cares” which is a program allowing neighbors to donate every month to help other neighbors who are struggling to pay bills. They are also rolling out new meters to all customers by the end of 2016. That will let the city be able to tell when a customer uses the most energy during the day.

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