Salaries earned by employees of the Laurens Commission of Public Works became a point of discussion during a report on electric rates yesterday. *P.M.P.A. Financial Director Steve Ruark was on hand for the October meeting to update the board on the anticipated 2013 wholesale power rate increase to the City utility.
Assistant General Manager John Young then began to talk of how the Commission’s electric rates compare with utilities across the state, showing their rates are in the middle, higher than Duke, but lower than SCE&G. He showed information compiled by the Charleston News and Courier.
As he presented the information, he was questioned by a member of the audience, Tim Pulley, who is seeking election to the C.P.W. this November. Here’s part of that exchange:
(John Young) “The average price in SC as you’ll see here is 11.32 cents. That’s taking all those utilities on that previous side, adding them up and dividing. OK? Laurens C.P.W. is 11.45 cents. Again, not my numbers, not C.P.W. numbers, these come from the Governor’s Energy Office.”
(Tim Pulley) “Can I ask you a question? (John) Yes sir. (Tim) “On the bill if you take your bill, the electrical part, divide what you use into it you come up with 13.”(John) I’m glad you asked that. Because the reason this is the fairest way to compare utilities is because what the Governor’s energy office, everyone of those utilities has to send the entire residential, the amount of electricity that we use and the amount of revenue we generate from that. What they do is they divide that. And that takes all of your cost, because if you look at a Duke Power bill, yes, their actual rate is lower, but where they get you is that the basic facility charge – the basic charge that’s on everybody’s bill. Ours is $6, theirs is $9. You’ve got to include all of those costs in there to get a true comparison. And, like I said, these are not my figures. These come from the state energy office through the Post and Courier.”
John Young then referred to information being passed around town by Candidate Tim Pulley, listing all C.P.W. employees who make over $50,000 a year. “Yeah, we’ve got people making over $50,000 a year. But let me tell you what they’ve done for you, ok?”
Young then reviewed wholesale electrical increases from the P.M.P.A. since 2009, saying that the management at the C.P.W. has been able to make operational adjustments to save money and pass on a smaller increase to its residential customers:
“So if you add up since 2009, P.M.P.A. has charged us 27.6%, or increased the rate 27.6%, yet we’ve only passed on 9.3% of that. So since 2009 we’ve saved the customer $241 per year. That’s what good management has done for us. And that’s why we feel like – yeah, we make good money, I’ll have to admit that. But its management like this, that if we didn’t have good management and we weren’t able to cut costs and save things, that’s what the rate would be. And Steve can be the witness here, many other P.M.P.A. cities, if the P.M.P.A. increase is 6.1%, the customer gets a 6.1% increase.”
C.P.W. Assistant General Manager JohnYoung showed a pie chart displaying the cost of operating the electric utility. It showed the majority of revenue is used to purchase electricity from the P.M.P.A.
“So everybody that gets a C.P.W. electric bill, out of every dollar that they pay, 80 cents goes just to buy the electricity. OK? ..and that other 20% basically, is what it takes the C.P.W. to run the electric system. And, by the way, out of every dollar, 6 cents actually goes to salaries. Which, if you want to lower rates, cutting 6 cents out of a dollar, even if you cut it in half, you only saving 3 cents.”
John Young then had a question for candidate Tim Pulley.
“And now in the spirit of full disclosure I do have one question for you, Mr. Pulley. Something that’s been kind of puzzling here. And…just want to get it cleared up since we’ve got everybody in the room here. Do you even have an account with the C.P.W.?”
(pause) (Tim) “Yeah” (John) “Can you prove it?”
(Tim) I’m a….I’m a co….it’s my son’s name and my names on the bill with it. I’ve always had a….” (John) “Can you prove that?” (Tim) “All you have to do is look at the statement.” (John) “Keith, do you mind printing a copy of his bill for me? So you’re saying…” (Tim) “….it’s got my name on it with him.” (John) It’s got your name of it, too?” (Tim) “It’s in my son’s name but…” (John) “It’s in your son’s name?” (Tim) “It’s in my son’s name but my name’s on there too because you mail it to me and I pay it every month.” (John) “But now why is your son’s name on there?” (Tim) “Because he used to live there….and I just moved in.” (John) “Did you realize Mr. Pulley that that’s against the C.P.W. policy to do that.” (Tim) “Nobody’s ever told me that. It’s been there 9 years.” (John) “Well, as far as we know, your son lives there.”
(Tim) “No…..Mr. Buchanan knows he don’t live there.”
(Buck Buchanan) “No I don’t know that either. When I look at the bill, and the bill’s name is Dale Satterfield, that’s who I assume lives there. I can’t assume you…” (Tim) My name’s on it. His name’s on it.”
(Buck) “Is it on the bill itself?” (Tim) “I don’t know about that, but I know it comes to me and my names on it.” (John) “Well, Mr. Wood will print off a copy of the bill so we can ….” (Buck) “I don’t know who lives there.”
(Tim) “Well, what if it is? What’s the deal? What’s whats…”
(John) “Well as a C.P.W. customer, I have a problem with somebody running for the board that’s not even a customer of the C.P.W.”
When the print-out of the bill for where Tim Pulley lives was produced, John Young handed it to Commissioner Gerald Abercrombie:
(John) “Mr. Abercrombie, since I’m not allowed to give out information for somebody’s account that’s not on there, would you read the things highlighted there?” (Gerald) “Pulley, Nolan Timothy, in care of Tim R. Pulley.”
(John) “It says ‘care of,’ which is mailing instructions. If Mr. Pulley, Mr. Nolan Pulley decides he doesn’t want to pay his bill and it goes into a bad debt, we garnish Nolan Pulley’s taxes, not yours. This is mailing instructions, Mr. Pulley. Your name is on here as where to mail it. You do not have an account here.”
(Tim) Well, maybe I can change that.”
In other business yesterday, the Commissioners approved the new contract for sharing revenue with the city. As negotiated this past summer, the new plan calls for sharing 5% of gross revenues generated inside the city limits with City Council’s General Fund. Following executive session discussion, it was a unanimous vote.
*P.M.P.A. is the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency. Owned by ten Upstate cities including Laurens and Clinton, the agency owns a portion of the Catawba Nuclear station and supplies wholesale electricity to its member cities.