Downtown Street Lights, Net Metering Tariff and More Discussed at Hope Water & Light Board Meeting

by Bren Yocom

The Hope Water & Light Commission met Wednesday, September 11 for their monthly meeting.

August financials, presented by Charlotte Bradley, showed electric operating revenue to be pretty flat compared to 2018. There was a decrease of $877,000 from last year, but that was in large part due to half of the “true up” being included in July. There was an overall increase of $168,000 from last year. Water operating revenue shows about $75,000 less in income and expenses were up this year by $82,000. The balance sheet shows that investments are still down, and cash is still up due to money being moved from investments into the checking account to pay for expenses associated with the modifications at the water treatment plant. Cash flow shows an increase from $11.4 million to $12.6 million.

A proposal was made for modifying Hope Water & Light’s net metering tariff. These modifications included changing the maximum generating capacity for commercial and industrial accounts from a 100kw to a 300kw. These changes will also allow excess generation on Hope Water & Light’s system to accumulate indefinitely instead of any net metering customer being zeroed out at the end of the year. However, for net excess generation credits older than twenty-four months, a net-metering customer may elect to have Hope Water & Light purchase the net excess generation credits if the sum to be paid to the customer is at least one hundred dollars. The changes and modifications to the net metering tariff were accepted and approved. There was also a motion to retain Jason Carter, an attorney from Little Rock, to help with the fees associated with solar energy, so that Hope Water & Light can be more in line with state laws.

One bid was received for painting 51 metal street light poles in the downtown area. The bid, from Mac Construction, was for $32,895 and the electric department requested that the bid be awarded. The motion to hire Mac Construction for the painting was approved.

The Commission approved a Property Insurance bid from Anderson Frazier in the amount of $34,385.40 for coverage from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020. It was suggested that Hope Water & Light also look at a cyber liability policy, to cover security breaches with third party billing and a representative from Anderson Frazier stated that a proposal would be worked up.

There was a total of $122,088.88 written off the books due to charge off from unpaid bills. Charge off breakdowns include electric at $84,500, Water at $19,700, Sewer at $10,100 and Sanitation at $7,600. A question was raised about why some bills are very high, even up to $1,000, before the customer is disconnected. Charlotte Bradley explained that the new software will not allow a customer to be disconnected until after the next billing cycle, so by the time the customer is disconnected, there’s around 2 ½ months of charges accrued. Other factors to take into consideration are 3 years of electric rate increases, 5 years of water rate increases, sanitation and wastewater increases. As those charges have increased over the last few years, Hope Water & Light deposits have not. Prior to these increases, raising deposits 2x the average customer’s bill was discussed, but it still wouldn’t cover anything because, the largest deposit would be $302. Bradley stated that they do still try to collect bad debt even after it is written off, it is just an ongoing process. Dennis Ramsey stated that if the names were published that it would get some attention. Charge offs were approved. A motion was made to publish the bad debt customers and was approved contingent upon discussion with Hope Water & Light attorneys.

Les Patterson presented an update on the water treatment plant. They are continuing to work on the building structure for the water plant, making progress on the electric room and installing the roof covers. Aluminum floor grating is being installed over the pipe trench in the pump house and pumps are being installed through openings in the roof with the use of a crane.

Russell Cornelius discussed the electric transmission and fiber to the home projects. Honeywell is on site now conducting CAT testing on the AMI project and should be finished by the end of the week. AEP SWEPCO discovered that when they do the ring bus at the Emmet switch, it may cause some congestion in the MISO Market. There will be a meeting to discuss the matter with Entergy at Entergy Arkansas Headquarters and attorneys on October 10.

There has been a contractor selected for the fiber to the home project and the main underground line will be installed in the rural areas over the next few weeks. It will take a few weeks to do the drops, so hopefully by the end of September, first of October, customers will start being served. In the town area north of 16th street, there are back lot lines that run down the back of the houses which create problems when storms bring those lines down because it is difficult to get back there. Customers will allow them to move onto the front of 15th street for easier access, which results in street lights being added in those areas.

Public Power Week is October 7 – 11, and Hope Water & Light will host the community coffee on October 9. There will also be an employee appreciation breakfast on October 11.

The next Hope Water & Light Commission meeting will be October 23, 2019 at 7:30 am.

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