What options does Falmouth city council have?
It seems that members of Falmouth City Council have heard the outcries of rage from the Falmouth residents and are searching for options.
Philis Wait responded to an inquiry from Falmouth Outlook that she would recommend to council and mayor “that we give the residents of our community additional time to pay their bills without penalty.”
Mayor Ron Stinson indicated, “We always have.” in providing customers to work out a payment plan.
Sebastian Ernst posted on his personal Facebook account on Sunday, “I would like to see us credit the increase from the previous month’s utility bill toward next month’s bill.”
He stood firm that the council has to increase rates to “continue maintaining our water, sewer and electric.”
But he admitted, “we failed in the way we prepared our citizens. We can’t deny that.”
New council member Joyce Carson said, “I think retrospectively, we could have waited till the September bills to begin the rates. I think council can come up with a plan to help residents with their bills. We can look at waiving late fees as long as a good faith effort is made.”
Council person April DeFalco was unable to be present for the two meetings because of a surgery. But she said, “We are a caring, dedicated council that truly has the best interests at heart. I believe the council will continue to discuss this matter and make proper changes, if needed.”
There is an indication that questions have been posed to the City Attorney Brandon Voelker on what options the city has as well as can they change the rates AFTER usage.
Changing the rates at the end of July effective at the start of July is similar to ordering a steak at a restaurant, eating it and then being told by the waiter that the price has been raised 50 percent.
The city could also look at the option to “budget billing” which spreads out the yearly utility expenditures for a household to 11 equal payments and the 12th payment balancing out the remaining balance.
“It is feasible and a question we could look into,” said Mayor Stinson in an interview on Monday morning. “It could help residents but since we are buying electricity off of KU, we have to have the funds to pay KU on a monthly basis. I cannot hope the city has the funds to pay KU in those high volume months. I need to know the city does have the funds.”
While they are addressing the immediate concern, they are transitioning to a hopeful long term solution.
The contract with KU ends on May 1, 2019. Presently, through the Kentucky Muncipal Energy Agency, (KYMEA), they have joined a consortium of municipalities that will band together and buy electric rates as a group.
Presently, the city buys electric from KU with only the approximate 1,000 Falmouth consumers as the purchasing power.
With the twelve other municipalities, that purchasing power will expand exponentially.
Mayor Stinson explained how that works using the analogy of a body of water.
“Someone puts water into the body of water at some point. Somewhere else, someone takes water out. All the electricity goes into a grid. Some put in and some take out,” explained Stinson.
The power plant providing electricity to Falmouth in the future could feasibly be located in Owensboro, Ky. With them putting electricity in the grid and Falmouth drawing it out at a lower rate.
“In a year, we will have a much better handle on electric rates,” Stinson encouragingly said.
“No one wants to pay higher rates on anything,” said Carson. “We’re going to do what we can to ease the burden on residents. I really feel bad and really want to come up with a way to help.”