Electric increase on board agenda

Monday, August 14, 2006

As officials in Jackson prepare for major electric rate revisions, one Missouri mayor is voted out of office by unhappy residents who saw their town's electric rates jump 45 percent over a five-month period.

Jackson's Board of Aldermen will discuss plans for increasing electric rates at tonight's study session meeting about one week after Farmington voters ousted Mayor Charles Rorex by 634 votes in a recall election.

At the end of June, Jackson officials announced residents can expect a "very healthy increase" in future electric bills. The combination of high fuel prices, federal energy policies on deregulation and environmental restrictions are the cause for higher rates, city officials said.

While officials haven't determined the amount of the rate increase, city administrator Jim Roach shot down rumors that customers will have a 60 percent or more increase.

"It's not going to be that high," Roach said. "The adjustment will be dependent on what the board wants to do."

For the past month, Jackson officials have met with a Kansas City engineering firm to evaluate the electric rates and determine what revisions should be made. A consultant will present the board with a draft report of his suggestions tonight.

The board may implement a series of electric rate increases over a three-month period. "That way customers aren't hit all at once," Roach said.

He isn't sure how Farmington's council handled the city's electric rate increase, or why the public was dissatisfied enough to vote the mayor out of office.

"From the outside looking in, I'm still not sure what to think," Roach said. "I don't know why their price increase came sooner than ours."

Both Farmington and Jackson operate electric distribution plants. Farmington is supplied with electricity from the Missouri Public Energy Pool, which will be Jackson's supplier after the first of the year.

An electric supplier for 26 cities across the state, MoPEP will be the cheapest supplier for Jackson, Roach said.

Former Farmington Mayor Rorex explained that a loss in revenue generated from the city's electric distribution plant was the reason for the city's electric rate hikes. Farmington lost $200,000 in revenue last year because the city sold electricity for less than what they bought it for, Rorex said.

A series of rate increases in Farmington were voted on by the city council over a five-month period, Rorex said. The city council first voted last October to increase electric rates by 29 percent, and in February, the council made the decision for an additional 16 percent increase.

Rorex said he was in favor of the first increase, but not the second. "After that happened in February, a group of individuals said I had not supervised or managed the electric company, even though that wasn't my job," he said.

Concerned residents formed the "Citizens to Recall the Mayor" group, and received enough signatures to hold the recall election on Aug. 8.

Attempts to reach Dean Bone, organizer and spokesperson for the Citizens to Recall the Mayor group, were unsuccessful.

The former Farmington mayor offers a suggestion to Jackson residents: "I hope to heck they don't recall their mayor or council," he said. "I love this city, and hopefully it will continue to flourish."

Alderman Phil Penzel wants Jackson residents to trust its elected officials. "The current board is very knowledgeable about the situation. If residents get upset and wipe out the entire board, the whole process would start over," he said. "It could have a very dangerous domino effect."

Roach said the city of Jackson is the biggest customer of its own electric distribution plant. "The city will try to absorb what costs we can, but it's going to hit us harder than anyone," he said.

The city of Jackson will hold a public hearing to allow citizen input regarding the electric rates at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21.


335-6611, extension 246

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