Hertford mayor forming citizens’ utility panel

2009-08-29_21-09-34-687Rocky Mount, Wilson & Tarboro could have done this (still can for that matter) and it could be effective.  Instead, small groups with  many different agenda’s form to address utility concerns.  There’s really nothing necessarily wrong with this, other than each group having to start at square one, learning the history of how we got in this predicament and what can be done.  All in all, when groups figure what they can and can’t do, they cool off because they don’t like the results.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hertford Mayor Sid Eley is forming a committee to address residents’ concerns about the town’s high utility costs.

“I’m asking people from different areas of town, including the mobile home parks, to serve on the committee,” said Eley. “I want to try to keep the committee small enough to be informational yet large enough to be productive.”

The panel is in response to complaints from some 70 citizens who attended last week’s town council meeting. In addition, several residents protested earlier by picketing in front of the town hall.

Town Manager John Christensen said the town will insert a pamphlet answering residents’ questions into the next utility bills to be mailed out the end of August, he said.

Vera Riddick, a protest organizer, said the group plans to stage another protest in front of the town municipal building at a later date. She also said the group met with state Sen. Ed Jones last week in a meeting she termed “productive.”

Residents became upset after the town cut off electricity to a number of town residents earlier this month for non-payment of utility bills.

Christensen said while council members are concerned over having to terminate electrical service to customers, they have directed town employees to follow town policy that has been in effect for years.

Utility bills are due on the 10th of each month. If the bill is not paid by the 10th, a disconnect notice is sent, giving the customer another 10 days to pay up or have the service cut off. In the meantime, the customer’s current charges are continuing to accumulate on the past due bill.

Town policy allows utility customers to receive a five-day extension three times a year. The town’s utility bill to customers includes costs for water, sewer, electricity and garbage pick-up. A partial payment on a customer’s utility bill is applied first to water and sewer, leaving all or part of the customer’s electric cost unpaid, leading to a disconnect notice, Christensen explained.

Some residents have voiced concerns over what they believe is unfair electrical charges for citizens living in different areas of town.

Christensen explained that the town still has to pay the town’s electric bill to its supplier, ElectriCities, even if town customers don’t pay the town. The town also has debt service to pay for water and sewer service as well.

Town officials encourage town residents with high costs to sign up for free energy audits. Other energy cost-cutting measures include keeping air conditioning thermostats set at 78 degrees in the summer, check filters at least monthly, clean dust and lint from air outlets, seal all cracks around a window air conditioner, and install a high efficiency heat pump that can cut heating and cooling costs by 25 to 50 percent.

Of course, using fans instead of air conditioning will decrease energy costs, as will weatherproofing the home to reduce heat or air loss.

Adding insulation can save as much as 55 percent of heating and cooling bills.

Also, using smaller appliances instead of a full-size oven can save energy costs, and when the oven is used, bake several dishes at the same time.

If the freezer isn’t frost-free, defrost frequently to help it run more efficiently, saving more money.

Also, turn off lights not in use and consider compact fluorescent lamps bulbs. Keep lamps and fixtures clean, and use natural light whenever possible.

Other energy saving measures include lowering the setting on the water heater, fixing leaky faucets, washing clothes in cold water, and take short showers with low-flow shower heads instead of baths.

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About George Fisher

George is a freelance writer, an author and a Democratic political consultant. He has worked as Deputy Communications Director for a Senatorial campaign and Campaign Manager for several NC House races and one congressional race. He previously worked as a news producer for a local television station.
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