Vidalia aldermen approve rebate from hydroelectric royalty funds

Published 12:24 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017


VIDALIA — Vidalia aldermen approved Tuesday cutting an approximately $600,000 check to its retail utility customers.

Mayor Buz Craft said he hopes utility customers would receive individual checks by November, but at the latest by the end of the year. The money is part of the hydroelectric plant royalty funds.

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The last time customers received a rebate was in 2016, which was approved by the previous administration. Residents received on average $43.50.

Town Manager Bill Murray said this year’s rebate package would be the biggest yet, but he could not yet give specifics.

Murray said an eligible customer could receive a maximum rebate of 50 percent of what the customer expended during the calendar year. With approximately $600,000 available, Murray said it was unlikely customers would receive the maximum.

Hydro royalties could increase in 2020 and 2022, and Murray said at that point residents could start receiving the maximum.

Murray said leaders are hoping to make utility rebates an annual trend, if the royalty trend continues as expected.

“Now we are showing people what the hydroelectric plant was meant to do — to lower electrical costs in the city,” Murray said. “This also does not mean we will not try to get the rates lowered at some point, too.”

If a customer has a past-due utility bill, the rebate would first be applied to what is owed and the customer would get a check for the balance, if any. Murray said the town still has to approve what an adequate grace period is, be it 10-, 15- or 30-days past due.

The town has available a surplus of approximately $1.2 million in hydroelectric royalties. The town can rebate 50 percent of its surplus back to residents, while the town can retain its portion of the 50 percent for projects.

The town has to get approval from residents before it can expend hydro surplus on a project. One item that came up at previous meetings as a possible use for the funds was construction of a playground.