Councilman Andre Knight opened the meeting followed by prayer Bishop R.T. McCarter. The meeting was held at the Bishop R.T. McCarter Fellowship Hall Glendale Avenue Rocky Mount NC.
Knight then gave the purpose of the meeting. He stressed the importance of the misleading information circulating around the city.
Charles Penny Rocky Mount City Manager gave an update. He talked about citizens receiving double bills. He said the citizens were given the opportunity to pay the bills over a period of time. He talked about natural gas. He talked about how cold it was in January and February. He said the citizens have a bundled bill, electric, gas, storm water and waste. The electric is about 20% higher than Progress Energy. He said the difference is if you pay $136 for rocky Mount you would be paying $106 with Progress Energy. Penny then broke down how the calculations of the dollars are used to pay for services.
The debt will be paid off in 15 years 2026. Some ask why not just walk away? If the city tried to walk away it would be just like not paying your mortgage payment and foreclosure would follow. Could get sued. Power would be turned off and the whole city would be without power. The credit rating is A plus. If the credit was bad would not be able to get bonds and other things needed for the city of Rocky Mount.
Penny talked about the different things that the city is doing. A ground breaking for the Streetscape Project will take place on March 24. They will walk over to the former Carleton House Restaurant now Four Seasons Restaurant to have a reception.
Rep. Angela Bryant followed. She was the moderator for the evening. She gave the procedure for the ground rules for the meeting.
Graham Edwards CEO ElectriCities gave a briefing on why they are in existence. It is a trade organization. CP&L and Duke Power was the sources back in the 70’s. Formed so there would not be double digits cost rising. The Harris Nuclear plant came on board last and it is the most expensive.
The debt is 400 million dollars 40% goes to debt 30% to operate facilities. Thirty eight% goes to repay the 2.2 billion dollar debt. The biggest driver is the debt. The local government agency oversee the members over the Eastern Power Agencies.
Rocky Mount is charged 10% so they charge more to pay for operating expenses.
Been trying to negotiate contracts over the years and been able to do some negotiations. Salaries been frozen for the past couple of years. Only adding on positions that are absolutely needed.
ElectriCities has not had a rate increase in last 2 years.
The merger of Progess Energy and Duke is not official yet. Some asked what is ElectriCities doing? Progress Energy said they don’t see a need to buy out customers of ElectriCities.
The combined companies said they will see a cost savings to them so therefore ElectriCites should see some cost savings from them.
Hope the merger will help and not hurt.
In the process of hiring someone at the State level to make sure the merger will not hurt the east.
Some have asked the State to pay off the debt but the money is not there.
Rates are not coming down in the near future can’t promise you they will come down. There are 2 parts to bill rate and consumptions . You must manage the consumptions.
Bryant asked Edwards to explain the role of the board for ElectriCities. The east and west boards of the eastern power agencies do not get paid.
The mayor of New Bern Lee Bettis was present. He asked if the citizens thought their light bills were too high? He said the same is true for the other 31 cities. Bettis said he asked the Edwards could it be negotiated. He said we don’t have to accept Edwards comments. New Bern hired a consultant for 30,000 and it was worth it.
Bettis said last week we went to DC behalf of the citizens in within the 32 cities. The utilities person said he didn’t tell them to not move forward. They gave them some hope on how to move forward. Was told got a bad deal but can’t be silent. Must re-negotiate from the position of power. Everybody said Lee go back and talk to every city and form coalitions with other cities and he said he would try it. This is why he is here tonight. There are strengths in numbers. Just look at the numbers if we get everyone on board. Can take legal steps to force them to re-negotiate.
The Duke representative said he understood what was going on.
Sam Watson NC Utilities Commission told how the commission does not have a dog in the fight. He gave the purpose of the commission. There are 7 commissioners nominated by the Governor and installed by the legislators. Formed to monitor the overpayment and other.
Shareholders want to make money but with ElectriCities they can’t force them to do anything.
The rate is not the issue it is the usage. Need to take advantage of the steps to energize your house.
If the Utilities Commission was involved they could not regulating the cost. Would take a similar approach
Co-op owned by the public.
Cost of buying power 83 cents goes to the ElectriCities 19 cents goes to pay for local. The commission would try to decide how to divide the monies.
Graham came back and explained how they come up with rates. ElectriCities has a rate, NCEMPA sets a rate and then the city sets a rate.
Reginald Speight Weatherization provider for the area. He said he sees your struggle and wonder how in the world are you making it? He said there is not disrespect to ElectriCities and cities.
Back in the day you used to be able to make it without an air conditioner because you could open your window. When it is cold outside it is no relief cold outside and inside at all times. The only thing that is going to help is conservation. Need to check out what is going on in your house. Need to take advantage of the free audits. Some begin the process and never finish. Many applications don’t want to have patience. During the summer the people don’t want to hear about the energy audit but as soon as it gets cold everybody start crying for help. 309 in Edgecombe and funds. The largest portion served has been in Rocky Mount. Rocky Mount City has given the weatherization program money to help with those who do not qualify. They have an office in the Human Relations office.
Rep. Jeff Collins Nash County newly elected to NC General Assembly. He says he talks about the electric rates every day. Don’t know what could be done but trying to find out. Asked to be on the utilities committee. Just talked to 3 mayors yesterday about utilities issues. Working to try to reduce the debt. Doors are open in the Rocky Mount office and his office in the NC General Assembly.
Rep. Jean Farmer Butterfield Wilson County said she has been elected since 2002 and this has been coming up every year and there has not been any solutions. Had all kinds of things done because she had issues with her utilities bill. Recently sold her house and that solved her problem. Said she was told the General Assembly that they had nothing to do with city utilities but it was the cities. She said so therefore there should be a partnership. The people of Wilson asked her to form a bill to oversee utilities rates.
She said she is part of a dialogue trying to partner to work on the utility problems. If you like what we are trying to do then talk to me about it but also if you don’t like the bill. Sponsors of the bill no number yet,
House bill 117 revenues by the city, can’t be used for anything but for paying for the cost of electric.
There is 3rd bill but can’t speak on it yet because of the sponsor.
Then came time for public to voice their opinions.
Person one said he didn’t qualify but there is monies available.
Cornel Pitts didn’t like the words can’t be done. Folks need to understand
Rev. Nehemiah Smith Jr. said trying to make bricks without straw. Said it was a lot of bramble getting caught up in the moosha. Said with the energy audit will only save $300.00. Said he has a solution. A person had a $48,000 bill.
He lied no one has come to the board for electric issues all been water and
Some appeals are completed before going to the board.
Jerry Lee Fisher said we have a problem with this country. Nuclear energy is a problem. What can we do? Only make suggestions. Many homes are pre 1941. The investors are only interested in profits. They are going to get their money from us or our children. Do we revolt? No we are only one in 32 if all 32 then can get something done. Must petition the everyone involved. Will take all of us and the council to help solve this problem. Utilities is not the only problem.
Sue Perry Coles bill $1000 a month club. She said she came with some strategies. If joint owners what about safety procedures? Currently reviewing that.
Perry-Coles asked Collins legislation will Duke will need for the merger don’t know. Collins said he didn’t know because he was new in the General Assembly.
Sam Watson said no legislature required. Legislation described is Duke wanted introduced to recover finances for future building. Separate issues.
Experience risk of payments? Construction work in progress? Issue is they need an advantage asking for something they don’t have, pay in advance before they build it. Angela’s version. they have 40 million to spread wher the city only have 60,000.
The last citizen to address the panel was Mrs. Sterling who said if she had known about the high light bills in Rocky Mount she would not have moved here. Can’t afford being on Social Security. Husband is sick, had to file for bankruptcy. Hope others can be helped. Should have been thought about before this mess.
Lamont Wiggins said the councilmembers understand. Have you ever seen other officials have the folks present to address you. Trips been taken to Washington DC. Don’t apologize for it. Not a pleasure trip leaving our business going up and coming back to work. Addressed Nehemiah Smith this city only city to offer alternative energy. By having this functionally in place we are on the cutting edge to alternative services. Brought others to the city New Bern came on their own time.
Will not be running away will be in your face.
Councilman Knight asked Bishop McCarter for extra time to allow the rest of the councilmembers present to speak for about 2 – 3 minutes.
Knight said the council is the buffer between all the representatives present. Ricardo Dew Wilson NC has been at the table.
Lois Watkins said it has been 2 hours and we still do not have the solution. What are you going to do when you leave? Don’t just fight at the council meetings but go to the General Assembly. They passed legislation to allow it. As citizens what are we going to do? Talked about her boss Reggie Speight and how weatherization is one route to take.
Customer services issues will be addressed. Senior citizens must be retrained. Another Town Hall meeting for jobs will be held at Word Tabernacle April 14.
WB Bullock hoped everyone listened we are not the only town in the eastern NC and the United States are suffering. Had the highest bill over the years. Turned his heat down 2 degrees and saved $149.00.
Tom Rogers recognized Chamber of Commerce. Obvious to him a very complex issue and if the answer was clear would leave here with a solution.
Reuben Blackwell talked about solutions. Blackwell let the citizens know the ElectriCities deal was made in 1972. He said he was in the 9th grade and living in Roxboro NC so he and no one else on the council had anything to do with the deal. He said they thought they were doing the right thing at that time. Business only locate where the resources are present such as infrastructure and that is what the cities were focused on. Blackwell said but now we are stuck.
Blackwell said the council don’t have the right to charge whatever they want. Can’t transfer more than 3%. When you see new businesses downtown being revitalized and other things we used 1.5 million dollars to help bring life back to the city.
Blackwell said the 2nd thing advocacy – conserving energy his house is cold and some of yours because he has been to their houses also. Asked citizens to come and monitor the process. Go to Wilson to monitor the NCEMPA meetings. Turn up the heat in other communities by going to the meetings.
Blackwell’s 3rd solution was negotiation with Duke Power and Progress Energy. Must have a negotiator at the table either with strength or weakness. Rocky Mount and the other cities may not be all agreeable on the strategy but can agree something needs to be done. Duke and Progress will have to listen. Can change faces but the issue will stay the same.
Blackwell completed his spill by talking about positioning in times. Utilities are binding all cities together. Been to Raleigh together. Republicans and Democrats are combining to deal with the issues. The Governor said today that when Knight came to her she she lived in New Bern her utility bills were $600 so she had a person interest in the matter.
Graham you need to know that we are coming at you.
I hope to get the video on The DCN TV soon so stay tuned.
NC towns hope utility merger will ease debt load
Note: I work a real job and don’t have a lot of time to write articles especially during the week so I hope you get the message because my thoughts may all run together. However this is why I try to bring you the actual video online so you can see it for yourself. Stay tuned for video coming soon. I also do this out of pocket so I don’t get paid for my services. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher