Vidalia utility rates drop

Published 11:44 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

VIDALIA — Vidalia’s utility customers won’t be paying as much for their utilities next month.

At Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, it was announced that utility rates had been reduced by 6 percent.

The reduction will be effective on the next bill customers receive, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

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“We are getting a lower cost of production from (the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority), and we can pass that on to our customers,” he said.

“We are going to continue to give the lowest prices we can to the people of Vidalia.”

The city increased utility rates by 20 percent in July 2008, following a worldwide spike in fuel production costs.

The city’s total increase in costs, however, was 73 percent, Copeland said.

“We absorbed that increase for four months without passing on that cost to customers,” he said.

The cost increase that forced the city to raise rates came all at once, City Manager Ken Walker said.

“We were paying approximately $500,000 a month, and our bill came in for more than $1 million,” Walker said.

The increase that the city passed on to the customer was just enough that the city wouldn’t be operating in the red, Copeland said.

The cost of natural gas, which is used in the production of electricity, has dropped dramatically in the past few months.

In July, the cost of natural gas was approximately $13 per cubic foot, and it is currently $4 per cubic foot, Copeland said.

In October, the city decreased the utility billing rate by 12 percent.

The cost of utilities to the city varies between 10 and 20 percent every month, depending on the spot market for electricity prices, Walker said.

“(The cost) fluctuates on a monthly basis, so we try to watch it and be careful,” Walker said.

If trends continue to follow the same pattern, though, Walker said he anticipates the city may be able to reduce rates another time before the heat of summer.