Price of utility bills in Minden focus of group

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A group started this week is already 170 members strong and members are concerned about The City of Minden’s utilities and the abnormally high charges customers are facing.

“I started the group after noticing some average usage discrepancies,” said James Thurman, group administrator.

Thurman’s most recent bill prompted him to ask questions.

“My bill in August went from $288 to $650 in September,” he explained. “I spoke to several other residents of Minden who also had unexplainable increases on their bills, and I felt that I needed to start up this group to explore just how many people are experiencing the same problem.”

Thurman suggests that customers take daily readings of their meter and to compare it to the consumption stated on their bill.

“If we see that enough people are not being charged accurately, we will use a collective voice to speak out until the right people hear us,” he said. “I have spoken to a few people who have actually left Minden due to the cost of powering their home. To me, that is a terrible way for our city to be represented.”

Thurman said after speaking with the Mayor, he thinks human error may have contributed to incorrect billing.

The City of Minden began installing new meters that should ensure correct readings.

However, Mayor Tommy Davis said new meters or their installation is not the reason for the unusually high utility bills customers are observing.

“Because we purchase our energy from AEP/Swepco, the cost per kilowatt/hour varies from month to month based on what Swepco charges,” he said. “On top of that charge, the energy is brought in on lines owned by Entergy, and so we incur transportation charges.”

Electrical lines sometimes become congested transporting energy to customers and that congestion brings another fee.

“There are months where the transportation and congestion fees cost nearly what the energy does,” David explained.

The current contract for purchasing the city’s electricity presents challenges in finding solutions to lower customers’ bills.

“We are locked into this contract and have been looking for ways to get out of it or make changes,” Davis said. “Unfortunately we are being told that the language offers loop-holes for the energy company, but the city is locked in.”

Minden is able of manufacturing its own power via steam plant, and because Minden is a municipality it does not fall under the protection of the Public Service Commission, which plays a role in regulating energy costs and protecting citizens.

“While having our own power station may sound like a good thing- and there are many benefits- it also has its own cost,” Davis said. “There have been times demand has been high and energy companies have asked us to produce. We can and we do, but we are not really staffed to run the facility at that capacity and overtime and additional cost happen.”

Davis said the amount of money the City makes on utilities is set during the budget and has largely remained unchanged over the years.

“But the extra cost, from transportation and congestion and so forth, those are passed onto the customer,” he explained. “If a customer is seeing a larger bill, it is not because the city is pocketing the money or using it to pay for the new meter installation. That is just not the case.”

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