High power bills are here to stay and the only thing you can really do about them is to try to save on costs by using electricity more efficiently. That was the message the Jenkins City Council got from representatives of Kentucky Power Co. at its May meeting. Customer Service Representatives Sheena Hensley and Bill Bettinazzi visited the meeting to explain electric bills to the council and when asked if bills were likely to go down, Bettinazzi said the increased costs are probably here to stay and recommended that customers use more energy-efficient appliances and LED lights.
Hensley told the council that the “tariff ” line on the bill is the actual amount the customers are billed and is a standard rate according to their residential status, small, medium, or large. She said those amounts are generally not questioned, but the fuel adjustment charge, which allows Kentucky Power to recover the cost of whatever fuel it uses to generate electricity, is another matter. The fuel adjustment cost is built into the tariff, but if the cost to Kentucky Power goes over the built-in cost, it will also be added as a fuel adjustment charge. However, if it goes below the tariff rate, it will also be deducted.
Bettinazzi told the council that some of the other charges that show on the bill come from building new power generating plants, whether they are in Kentucky or not. Another fee that appears on bills, and one which is a particular irritant to many in the coalfields, is the cost of decommissioning the coalgenerating portion of the Big Sandy Plant at Louisa, as well as the cost of switching a portion of the plant over to use natural gas. There is also a “capacity charge” that is passed on to customers if Kentucky Power’s power use goes over capacity, that is, if it uses more than it actually generates, and have to purchase it from the “grid,” from other powergenerating companies. He said power purchased from the grid is usually a good deal more expensive than electricity produced by Kentucky Power.
City Attorney Randall Tackett asked why the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) would allow Kentucky Power to charge for a power plant being built in Indiana, and Bettinazzi said the Indiana plant is part of the overall powergenerating system. Tackett said that eastern Kentucky had a perfectly good generating plant at Louisa that generated electricity from coal. But now eastern Kentuckians are having to pay to have it torn down well before the projected end of its generating life, leaving a $200 million deficit (listed on bills as the Big Sandy rider). He added that the current political climate is more coal friendly that it has been in the past.
Bettinazzi said that Kentucky Power makes extremely large long-term investments and there is no way to predict political trends. He also said it is better to have a generating plant than to have to buy electricity on the grid, and that Kentucky Power still has coal-generated facilities. Bettinazzi added that the Public Service Commission tells the utilities what to do and that at the PSC meetings that are open to the public there are a lot of interest groups represented. He said the Big Sandy rider is designed to allow Kentucky Power to recover all of its costs from retiring the coal-generating portion of the Big Sandy plant.
Bettinazzi said that the Kentucky PSC wants every charge to be listed on bills and that different states have different reporting requirements. He also returned to the familiar theme of blaming the Environmental Protection Agency by saying that Kentucky Power has to pay to comply with EPA regulations.
Tackett told Bettinazzi that many eastern Kentuckians believe that Kentucky Power did not work hard enough or make the necessary investments to install clean coal technology at its plants and gave up on using coal to generate electricity too soon. “Also you passed the costs on to the people who could least afford it.”
Council member Rebecca Amburgey then asked if it was going to get better and Bettinazzi said it will not get any less expensive than it is today, and the only solution is for consumers to use power wisely. He said customers need to reduce the kilowatt-hours they use for electricity.
Tackett once again said, “ You didn’t fight hard enough for coal.”
City Finance Officer Robin Kincer asked about deposits which are automatically charged to customers when their accounts are delinquent, usually over two months. Using her late father as an example, Kincer said that many older people simply forget to pay their bills on time and others have to juggle bills with prescriptions and other medical costs as well as rent and food. She said the deposit is extremely difficult for people who are already struggling to handle, and they often send them into a spiral of default. Hensley said that deposit warnings appear on bills.
Bettinazzi said he would mention that at the main office and suggested that people call the customer service line at (800) 577- 1113. He also suggested that customers with cell phones go to the Kentucky Power website and sign up for alerts that can be sent in the form of text messages or e-mails and tell customers about power outages and when power will be restored.
In other business, Mayor Todd Depriest introduced the city’s budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. The balanced budget calls for expenditures and revenues totaling $2,035,712. He said that the council can comment on the budget over the next month and the second reading will be held at the June meeting. He also praised Kincer for her work on the budget and said that she had to make some projections because some insurance costs were not set yet, and she used the percentage increases from last year and applied them to this year’s budget. Depriest said he hopes insurance costs will be firm by the next reading.
Councilman Rick Damron told the council it is clean-up time in Letcher County and said the county will have a tire amnesty with tires accepted at the Gateway Industrial Park and the old Suwanee Tipple site at Isom on June 15, 16, and 17. Rebecca Amburgey said she is glad that the police department has increased its attention to ATV’s and officers are issuing warnings to ATV riders. Mayor Depriest said the city’s “ATV Friendly” designation does not mean that laws governing their use are not enforced, and it appears that many riders have forgotten that the designation simply allows riders to leave trails and come into the city to buy gas and supplies. He added that there will be a cruise-in on Saturday, May 6, and the Jenkins High School prom will be held June 6.
The Jenkins Police Department reported that officers responded to 95 complaints in April and issued 14 citations. Officers gave 50 verbal warnings and made nine arrests, seven of which were the result of warrants. They also responded to two injury accidents and two non-injury accidents. One arrest involved methamphetamine and marijuana and two handguns were recovered during the arrest. A significant number of verbal warnings have recently been issued to remind citizens about ATV rules as warmer weather has increased riding.
Police Chief Jim Stephens also said he had been contacted by several media outlets concerning a recent news story about the Mayor of Pound, Va.’s, statement to the effect that an increase in tickets issued to Kentucky drivers will help top pay for a new police car in Pound. Stephens said the department continues to maintain an excellent working relationship with the Virginia law enforcement community, which benefits citizens on both sides of the state line.
The City of Jenkins produced 10,740,000 gallons of treated water in April and sold 9,649,000 gallons for a difference of 1,091,000, or a 10 percent potential loss, The Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department used 25,000 gallons and the unaccounted for loss stood at 1,066,000 gallons. Ken Reid of Nesbitt Engineering told the council the Fleming-Neon Interconnect is complete and paving for the project will be finished this week, and that the Camden Bridge Project is complete as well. Paul Nesbitt reported that Abandoned Mine Lands will have $12 million this year and $1.6 million will be used for water projects. This is down from previous years, but Nesbitt said that a lot will depend on how grant applications to AML are worded. He said the City of Jenkins is about $1.5 million away from its goal of completely replacing every water line in the city. The project has already resulted in a big decrease in the loss of treated water, which averaged about 75 percent when the project was started more than 10 years ago.