Copeland to tackle utilities now

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2006

One of Mayor Hyram Copeland’s goals for the future is already in the works, he said Friday.

In November Copeland announced he would run for re-election as mayor of Vidalia and the city’s high-energy costs would be the first issue resolved.

“We’re seeking every avenue we can to get those costs lowered,” Copeland said.

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In August a press release from the Secretary of State’s office showed Vidalia had the highest utility rates in the state.

A resident living in a home that uses 1,000 kilowatts per hour pays an average of $122.40 a month.

Copeland said citizens were paying that much because the city’s energy provider, Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, costs had gone up.

“We are talking to LEPA and negotiating a new contract with lower rates,” Copeland said.

Copeland said he hopes the new contract with LEPA will be signed by spring.

Copeland also said the board was still working on the contract between the city and United States Sustainable Energy Corporation, a company that produces bio-fuel from soybeans.

In October USSEC President John Rivera said he planned to build generators to power the city of Vidalia using the bio-fuel.

Last month the board of aldermen was scheduled to meet with USSEC representatives to discuss the contract but the board did not have a quorum and the meeting was cancelled.

Copeland said issues with the contract still needed be worked out.

“We’re going to dot our Is and cross our Ts before we finalize anything,” Copeland said.

Copeland also said the city would have lower natural gas rates this year.

Copeland said the city negotiated a contract with Louisiana Gas Authority to reduce the city’s cost of natural gas by about $400 a month.

City Manager Kenneth Davis said last year the city paid $14.91 per 1,000 cubic feet for natural gas.

“We had to charge the citizens of Vidalia and average of $10.59 per 1,000 cubic feet,” Davis said.

Davis said the city paid $6.36 per 1,000 cubic feet last month and anticipates a 10 percent reduction in the price of natural gas to Vidalia’s citizens for the remainder of winter.

But there are some citizens that think utilities could be the major issue in the 2008 mayoral election.

Nell Parker has lived on Apple Street in Vidalia since 1976.

Parker said she doesn’t think the current administration has done a good job with keeping utility rates down.

“We were supposed to have the cheapest (utility) rates in the state but now we have the highest,” Parker said.

Parker said although Copeland has done a good job in other projects for the city, the utility issue might cost him the election.

“A lot of people are mad about this issue,” Parker said. “I’ve voted for him every time in the past but I don’t know if I will this next time.”

Resident Tessa Aldridge said she doesn’t blame Copeland for this year’s high utility rates but thinks people might be looking for a change in mayor.

“It’s human nature for things to change,” Aldridge said. “It’s like that old saying that you can only ride a good horse for so long.”

Bill Hancock said he too did not hold Copeland or the administration responsible for the utility rates.

“Utility bills are what they are and there is a lot of things people need to do to lower them on their own,” Hancock said.

Virgil Smith said he has only lived in Vidalia for five years but thinks the city’s utility rates are considerably lower compared to other parishes where he has lived.

In the other parishes, Smith said he paid his electric bills to Louisiana Power and Light, now Entergy.

“My utilities are a reasonable price and especially more reasonable than anywhere else I’ve been,” Smith said.