Hope Water & Light Commissioners Hear Project Updates at June Meeting

The Hope Water & Light Commissioners held their monthly meeting virtually on Wednesday morning, addressing a full agenda. After the minutes were modified and approved, the Commissioners heard from Chris Munn, with Utility Financial Solutions (USF), a company that specializes in studies on financial planning, cost of service and rate design. Munn presented results from avoided costs on the solar rate study the company conducted to identify the details of power supply and how solar impacts the cost of that solar supply. The Commissioners were given details on baseline information and issues to consider and discuss.

Charlotte Bradley presented the income statements for May 2020 on Broadband, Electric and Water.

The financials show broadband year-to-date revenue at a little over $1,900 for May.

Year-to-date revenue for 2020 is down about $1.8 million compared to last year, but purchase power expenses are down $1.6 million and total expenses are down $1.7 million. Year-to-date, revenue is down $105,000, and current month revenue is up $265,000, which is around $360,000 more than May 2019.

Water revenue is up by $37,500 compared to last year at this time. Revenue for the month of May shows a loss of almost $400 and is down about $17,000 compared to April 2020. Year-to-date expenses are around $5,500, going up in May due to some major repair work on a 30” line in Fulton.

Cash flow shows a negative number for 2020 due to less collected in accounts receivable and a large payout for construction at the water treatment plant.

Russell Cornelius spoke on net metering and asked the commissioners how they would like to move forward with the request from two commercial customers that have requested Hope Water & Light revise their net metering tariff on solar arrays. Integrity Energy has proposed a 1.13 megawatt ac system for Hope Public Schools and a 1 megawatt system for UAHT and the tariff maximum is 300 kw for anything other than residential. The commissioners discussed how this may affect Hope Water & Light’s relationship with SWEPCO and how it would benefit or harm Hope Water & Light if they moved forward with the request. Commissioner Judy Davis made a motion to table this issue until they receive more information from SWEPCO. The motion was seconded and approved. Cornelius stated that he will contact SWEPCO, Hope Schools and UAHT to set up a meeting with the commissioners for next month.

Charlotte Bradley stated that 386 customers used the kiosk in May with payments totaling $59,906.73, increasing around $1,000 from April. To date, 285 customers have used the kiosk in June with over $38,000 in payments taken in. Bradley stated that pre-pay is continuing to be a good tool to offset bad debt expense. The 6 customers who disconnected in May left with only $2 – $32 owed, so this shows a positive trend. Bradley stated that there are 99 active pre-pay accounts at this time and that they will continue to encourage customers that are up for cut-off to utilize this option. She stated that they are working on establishing a policy for accounts that have multiple disconnects so customers will have to pre-pay their account or pay a larger deposit for utilities.

Russell Cornelius updated the commission with the fiber to the home study. He stated that they don’t have the final study back, but the preliminary results of the phone survey show a penetration rate of 65%-72%. Of the 271 phone surveys conducted to date, 145 customers have said they will switch to Hope Water & Light broadband. Fiber to the home has been completed in the pilot area and 17 new customers are up and running.

Cornelius stated that they will be adding 2 smart switches, one on 19th street and one on South Elm. These switches will transfer power from one substation feeder to another substation feeder, so in the event that Hope High School, Wadley Hospital, or UAHT lost power, all they would experience is a quick blink. Both substations would have to be lost in order for them to completely lose power. Cornelius stated that because the smart switches have to have fast communication, they will be running the remaining fiber between the switches with plans to build so that customers may be added to fiber at a later date. Cornelius asked the commission if they would allow them to do a trial run with some commercial accounts on broadband. He stated that they would like to begin with some smaller commercial accounts to make sure they can meet the needs of those customers. The Commission agreed to the trial run.

Cornelius stated that he received an email from SPP on the meeting for the Transmission project. They will not open their offices back up to employees until September, pushing a face-to-face meeting back to October.

Les Patterson and Russell Cornelius discussed the Water Treatment Plant, presenting a slide show on progress to date. The rebar has been completed and concrete has been poured. Concrete on the panels for the walls and the dome began Wednesday morning.

Russell Cornelius stated that there is nothing new to report on the AMI project. The only communication they have had from Honeywell is that they have the team together and they are still looking at the network.

Charlotte Bradley stated that the office is closed to the public at this time due to COVID-19. She said the numbers in the county and the state are on the rise and asked the commission for guidance on when to open the office back up. Bradley said there have been no issues with the doors being closed. There are postings on the doors and on HWL Facebook page for customers to call and make an appointment if they need to come to the office. Certain procedures are in place and will continue to be in place after reopening. Commissioner Douglas stated that they should stay closed for now and not open back up until the COVID numbers begin declining. The commissioners elected to leave the office closed for now and make a decision at their July meeting on whether to re-open in August. Charlotte Bradley stated that she will issue a press release to inform the public they will remain closed and the procedures that will be put into place upon reopening.

To view the press release, click HERE

Russell Cornelius notified the commission that they received the true-up numbers from SWEPCO projecting interest calculated through July 10. Hope Water & Light will receive a true-up payment of $1,615,650 from SWEPCO next month. The issue will be put on the agenda for the July meeting so that the commissioners can decide how to set the PCA in order to distribute this payment to Hope Water & Light customers.

The next Hope Water & Light meeting will be held July 29, 2020 at 7:30 am.

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