Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Electric rates in the City of Georgetown.
They have been the source of some contention between residents and City Hall for years.
Last week, Donald Gilliard took his concerns about the high bills straight to City Council.
Gilliard said both his mother and aunt — who live in the city — received electric bills for more than $600.
“They have problems paying this exorbitant amount,” Gilliard said.
“This is an opportunity for council to understand there are seniors and poor people who are falling through the cracks.”
Gilliard took issue with an electric rate plan passed by council in January, 2012.
When that new rate plan was being discussed, city leaders said on average the commercial demand customers would see a 2.84 percent reduction in their electric costs.
The plan did not result in a decrease in residential rates.
“Residential rates need to be lower than business rates,” Gilliard said. “There is a problem. People are hurting.”
Mayor Jack Scoville said high electric bills are “a problem that Council is very aware of and which we have been looking into for some time.”
He said higher than usual bills can occur for a variety of reasons.
“The biggest problem is substandard housing. Most of the billing issues go back to poorly insulated houses,” Scoville said. “For example, a lady came to me with a very high bill two weeks ago. I sent the department head and the city building official to check out her house. She had a broken window that was causing a lot of heat loss.”
Scoville also said one of his neighbors had her house upgraded a few years ago.
“Her electric bill was cut by about $400 a month,” he said.
At the same time the city was putting together the new, electric rate plan they were also discussing the possibility of a weatherization program that would have helped residents save by pinpointing places in their homes causing electric waste.
The program was expected to be in place by the summer of 2012 but was never talked about again after former City Administrator Chris Eldridge left Georgetown for Horry County.
Scoville said he wants to revisit the weatherization program.
“I would like to see the City develop the capability to perform energy audits for our citizens to determine what can be done to make residences more energy efficient,” he said.
Electric rates are expected to be the topic of an upcoming workshop but the date for that meeting has not yet been set.
By Scott Harper