Mayor: Vidalia residents may soon see utility bill at fixed rate

Published 12:17 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019


VIDALIA — Vidalia residents may soon be paying their utility bills at a fixed rate that town officials said would help them save money on electricity but with a slightly higher water bill.

During an informal meeting with officials and local residents Monday morning at Town Hall, Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said the citizens of Vidalia have already enjoyed the benefits of lowered utility costs due to an adjustment made last August.

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“I’ve done my calculation over the past two months, and my rate per kilowatt hour was a little over 10 cents,” Craft said. “I checked Concordia Electric and I checked Entergy in Louisiana, and the rate there was a little over 13 cents per kilowatt.”

The rate is significantly less than what Vidalia residents paid in 2016, Craft said, when the town’s investment to the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority began to factor in its citizens’ bills causing a drastic spike in their electricity costs.

To combat the issue, Craft said he made adjustments that helped individual residents but caused the city to lose $2.1 million in revenue over a 16-month period.

The mayor should not have the power to raise and lower the price citizens pay to light their houses without consent, Craft said during Monday’s meeting — which he admittedly did last January to prevent the city from going over budget.

“I thought I could (adjust the cost) for six months when usage wasn’t as high so maybe the people wouldn’t shovel as much of the burden,” he said. “In August, we changed it back.”

Craft said the Board of Aldermen would vote on a utility rate ordinance during today’s regularly scheduled meeting that would prevent him from adjusting the cost any further without approval.

“I’m trying to get that approved now so that I can’t manipulate (the utility cost) anymore,” he said. “We should have to come before the people to get it approved to manipulate the power cost like that. I shouldn’t have that authority.”

Craft said he hopes to continue having lower electricity costs, but in order to do so the town would have to slightly adjust the cost of water, which would equate to overall savings on the utilities combined.

“For example, I have a high usage of both water and electricity,” Craft said. “I’m going to save close to $500 on my electric bill but pay about $100 more for water each year.”

For residential and commercial users, the first 4,000 gallons of water would cost 50 cents per 100 gallons instead of 49 cents, Craft said. The next 16,000 gallons would cost approximately 31 cents per 100 gallons instead of 10 cents, while 22,000 gallons or more would cost 20 cents per 100 gallons, he said.

If the ordinance is approved during today’s meeting, Craft said the change could be reflected in local utility costs as early as March.