Utility rates falling in Vidalia

Published 12:01 am Thursday, December 13, 2007

VIDALIA — Starting Saturday, Vidalians will be paying lower rates for their utilities.

The Vidalia Board of Alderman voted to lower utility rates by 4 percent at their meeting Tuesday night, the second time they have voted to lower rates this year.

The first time they lowered rates was in May when they decreased rates by approximately 12 percent for residential consumers and 11 percent for business customers.

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“You’re looking about a 15 percent decrease in rates for the last year,” Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

While the May rate adjustment was done by rebudgeting and cost cutting in city government, the latest rate decrease is due primarily to lower supplier costs.

“We are doing this because our cost from the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority has been in a downward trend for the last four months,” Vidalia City Manager Ken Walker said.

The city buys its energy through LEPA.

Part of the reason costs have been down is the recent warm weather.

“Because of the heat, natural gas use has been low,” Walker said. “We’re looking at making a few adjustments before the cold comes in.”

The city, though LEPA, is negotiating with an energy supplier to hopefully provide utilities at a consistently lower rate, Walker said.

The initial increase in costs that is being reduced came in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“We were forced to increase rates then because of the high cost and scarcity of natural gas and oil in the wake of the hurricane,” Copeland said.

“People were used to paying low utility bills, but we were operating at nearly a 100 percent increase in costs before we passed it on to them,” he said.

In practical terms, the decrease will save a customer with a $200 utility bill approximately $8.