11/18/09 — Fremont trying to reduce electric expenses

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Fremont trying to reduce electric expenses

By Laura Collins
Published in News on November 18, 2009 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- Members of the Fremont Board of Aldermen and town officials are looking at ways to offset the town's high electricity costs.

Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said the town is losing about $7,000 a month on electricity, the difference between the amount it is collecting from the town and the amount it is paying their electricity provider, ElectriCities. This is especially troublesome for the board because money from the electricity fund was previously loaned to the water and sewer fund.

"The water and sewer fund, with the improvement in the sewer lines, has improved the losses in money. But the water and sewer fund needs to build back all of the money it has lost over the past few years. Meanwhile, the electric fund is now losing money (because) the majority of its money has been loaned to the water and sewer fund," he said. "Either one or both of these funds must increase revenues or decrease expenditures."

The sewer lines have recently been replaced and repaired and are more efficient. Board member Harold Cuddington said he hopes the sewer system will make enough money to pay back the electric fund deficit, and suggested waiting until after the first of the year to decide on whether to make changes to the utility rates.

McDuffie and town finance officer Karen Peeden were hesitant to support that idea.

"The longer you keep digging a hole, the more you have to do to fill it in," McDuffie said.

McDuffie attributed the gap in what the town receives in electric payments and what the town pays ElectriCities to a 4 percent increase in the cost of electricity that was placed on the town last February by ElectriCities. He suggested restructuring the utility rates rather than imposing a 4 percent increase across the board, as board member Leon Mooring suggested.

The board did not take action on the utility rates Tuesday night and set up a committee of board members W.T. Smith, Mooring and Leroy Ruffin to work with McDuffie and Peeden.

Also at the meeting, the board approved an amendment to the contract with The Wooten Company for Phase I of the town's sewer project. The amendment raises the ceiling price for the project from $117,500 to $159,939. The additional fee is because the length of construction was extended and additional work was added to the project.

The board also agreed to move its December board meeting to Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m.