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New Martinsville Electric Rates Slated to Raise

By Staff | Apr 11, 2018

The New Martinsville city council held a scheduled workshop meeting prior to the regular city council meeting on April 2. This meeting was in reference to the need for electric rate increases.

David White, electric superintendent for the city, informed council the city is in need of a rate increase of $734,774. White said the last rate increase occurred in 2010, and if approved, the new proposed increase will produce positive operating income.

He said the cost of electricity to the city has increased in 2017 by $370, and money in the reserve account has been used to purchase electricity. White said the city is required, by the Public Service Commission, to keep a certain amount of funds in the reserve account.

JDG Consulting LLC (JDG) was hired by the city to review the current financial status of the electric department, and the above-mentioned figures were the results of the review.

White said if the proposed rate increase moves forward and is approved, the overall increase will be 20.8 percent when applied to all classes. He explained there are three classes of power consumption within the city: residential, small demand and large demand. For instance, if a household uses $106 worth of electric per month, the bill would jump to $126. For large demand customers who use $1,200 per month, the yearly increase would be around $20,000.

According to White, the increase is necessary because power costs, excusing expenses, are $1,194,185. This is approximately $180,000 higher than the level included in the last rate change. However, this $1.195 million is still less than the actual expenses in 2009 of $1.245 million. He noted purchased power costs are 72 percent of total expenditures by the department and continue to be the primary driver of both revenue requirements and the adjustments necessary to the proposed rates.

Several people in attendance questioned the rate increases and how those rate changes would affect those on fixed incomes. Residents were concerned about the trickle-down effect when businesses pass on the increase to their customers. Some council persons and citizens felt there could be ways to lower the increase, or implement it in stages

The matter was moved to the regular council meeting; the matter was on the agenda for a recommendation to move forward with the rate increase, as proposed by JDG Consulting.

Mayor Steve Bohrer called the regular council meeting to order at 7:31 p.m. Local resident Amy Witschey was the first guest speaker to address council. Witschey presented council with a proclamation to sign, designating May 3, 2018 as National Day of Prayer. She said, in the past, the event has been held in front of the court house, but she would like to ask council for permission to hold this year’s event in front of the city building. Mayor Bohrer signed the proclamation and council unanimously agreed to allow the event to be held at the city building on May 3, beginning at 7 p.m.

Witschey also asked council for the city’s support to help WV Class A schools in their struggle to compete against private schools in school sporting events. She noted there is a movement in West Virginia, on social media, that currently has about 1,300 members. The members are making a concerted effort to even the playing fields.

According to Witschey, many people blame the WVSSAC, but the problem lies in a Legislature statute which gives the same rights and privileges to private schools of existing public member schools. The problem, however, is the playing field is tilted in favor of the private schools.

She pointed out that in the past 30 years, private schools have dominated public schools in basketball and football. In the last 31 years, in girls Class A basketball, private schools have won 28 of the 31 state championships; in the past 20 years, there have been only three public school state champions in boys basketball. One of those three schools was Magnolia High School.

According to Witschey, the difference is in geography. While the field is supposed to be level, the public Class A schools are not able to compete against private Class A schools in all the metro areas like Morgantown, Wheeling, Parkersburg and Huntington, to name a few. In Wetzel County, Magnolia has just a portion of the county, which has four small schools. These schools have fewer skilled players than those available in communities with 40,000, 50,000, 60,000, or even 70,000. She mentioned several other disadvantages in rural areas that athletes have to deal with when forced to compete against private schools, which have access to more skilled athletes and better facilities.

She asked the city to write a letter of support. Witschey said only with support from the community and civic leaders, can the public convince the WVSSAC and the state board of education to take action. She said this is not just a New Martinsville issue, but a Paden City, Pine Grove, Hundred and all other public Class A schools’ communities problem.

“There is a grass roots effort to make the needed changes in our state’s sports system, and we believe you and your governmental bodies will be an important part of the effort,” Witschey stated.

Council agreed to draft a letter of support.

Two residents also spoke before council. One resident was concerned about the use of fireworks in the community. He presented council with a copy of state law. This law says municipalities have authority to govern the use of fireworks. Thus, the resident felt council should establish some guidelines on how, when, and where fireworks are used.

The resident said he had to call police twice last year, regarding the use of fireworks, and he praised the officers for their quick response, noting they were very polite and helpful. He said the fireworks were used past midnight, and could often be heard for weeks prior to and after the July 4, holiday. He noted commercial-type fireworks are only to be used in festive settings. Also, he claimed, fireworks had hit his home and property. He noted fireworks debris landed on the roof of his garage. The resident said while fireworks are legal to purchase in West Virginia, the cities can decide what, when, and where – as well as reasonable dates and times – when fireworks should be used; however, city code, as presently written, states usage is not allowed if it might bother any reasonable person.

He also cited municipal code, which covers “excessive” and “annoying” noises. He felt the city code should be examined and council should revise it to reflect guidelines that would prevent a nuisance. The resident said the noise from fireworks can disturb residents’ pets, as well as disturb residents who are sleeping and have to awaken early for work the next morning.

Another resident said a Ford Escape is blocking the alley to her business. She said there is a 14-foot utility right-of-way, which is to be open at all times. She said a renter of a house has left the vehicle there; she asked council to have the vehicle moved. Mayor Bohrer told her council would like into the matter.

In other business, council unanimously approved a resolution for a matching $6,000 Land and Water Conservation grant. Another matching grant for the DEP litter control was also approved.

Council reported the city had received word of approval of the city’s budget back from the state.

Councilman Steve Pallisco, chairman of committee #2, stated there is no question the city needs an increase in electric rates, but he would like to have another meeting to further discuss the issue. He said he felt it was possible there could be ways to avoid as high an increase as has been proposed. He was very appreciative of the way Superintendent David White explained the need for the increase. Councilman Jeff Wright added he felt the meeting should be open to the public, so residents can hear what was explained as well. Wright felt residents should be allowed to hear all the proposals and get a better understanding for the need. The issue was tabled, pending another meeting.

Council also approved the 2018 cleanup schedule, and a motion by councilman Joel Potts for a new K-9 unit. A new canine will be added to the police department, at no cost to the city.

Councilman Wright also thanked Gary Willey, who wasn’t present, and his crew for the cleanup work they’ve been doing in Brooklyn. He said it has made a big difference.

The annual Easter egg hunt was deemed a success. It was noted there were over 30,000 eggs, and they were all gone within five minutes.