The Public Service Commission will conduct two public meetings in neighboring counties to receive comments from customers of American Electric Power (AEP) and Kentucky Power on the proposed 35 percent rate increase.
PSC will hold a meeting at 5 p.m. on April 20 in the auditorium of Pikeville High School. A second meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on April 21 in the auditorium of Hazard Community and Technical College.
Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II said the meetings may be the only opportunity most Letcher County residents will have to address the Public Service Commission about the proposed rate increase. Banks said people can also speak about the hardships many suffered as the result of a power outage Dec. 18 which affected more than 7,000 homes, some for more than a week.
“I cannot overstate just how important it is that there is a good turnout at both of these locations by individuals opposing the requested rate increase and by those who experienced the many hardships caused by the prolonged power outage,” said Banks. “I am confident that the interests of AEP will be well represented at these hearings as well as the yet unscheduled upcoming hearing before the Public Service Commission at Frankfort.”
Earlier this year Banks formally asked a Letcher County grand jury to conduct an investigation to determine whether Kentucky Power’s lack of preventive maintenance may have contributed to the severity of the power outage in December.
“It is anticipated that the grand jury will issue its findings and any report prior to these meetings,” said Banks. “This is of course contingent upon the grand jury being able to meet and to issue its report to the circuit judge prior to April 20.”
Banks said he encouraged the PSC to visit Letcher County to see firsthand the widespread neglect and the overall poor vegetation management employed by AEP and its contractors in the county.
“Several weeks ago I contacted the Public Service Commission on behalf of the citizens of Letcher County to voice my objections to the requested rate increase and to relay the many comments I had received from individuals who absolutely cannot afford such an increase in their electric bill,” said Banks. “Most individuals had also complained that they had suffered undue hardship during the massive power outage the week before Christmas and that in their opinion, most of the extended power outages were caused by the lack of routine maintenance and vegetation control by AEP. I have yet to hear from any customer who felt otherwise.”
Banks said the two meetings could be the only opportunity people will have to provide photographs and other information to prove that the power outage would not have been nearly as bad as it was if proper maintenance and tree trimming in the right-of-ways had been followed.
“I have heard from many concerned individuals concerning the overgrown trees, old transformers, and other problems, which in their opinions are due to the lack of proper maintenance,” said Banks. “It is one thing for me to hear of these problems but quite another for the Public Service Commission to see and hear of these concerns directly from the customers of AEP.”
Banks said if enough people show interest in attending the meetings, he, Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward and the fiscal court may be able to assist in transporting people to Hazard and Pikeville.
Anyone needing transportation to the meetings is asked to call Banks at 633-8121, the county judge’s office at 633-2129, or their magistrate. Banks said he must know how many people need transportation to the meetings by April 15.
“If an individual cannot attend the meeting but still desires to voice their objections to the proposed rate increase, I will also accept through April 19 their written comments and any relevant photos they wish to provide,” said Banks. Banks said submitted photos must include the approximate date taken and the location depicted in the photo. Photos are to be dropped off at the commonwealth’s attorney’s office at the Whitesburg City Hall building, or mailed to Banks at 48 East Main Street, Whitesburg, Kentucky 41858.