EPB Says "Massive" Audit On Streetlight Charges To Take Longer Than Expected

Thursday, June 26, 2014

EPB officials said Thursday that a "massive" audit involving charges to the city for the streetlight program is taking more time than expected.

Vicky Gregg, EPB board member who heads the audit committee, said auditor Warren McEwen said it could not be ready by July 1 as requested by Mayor Andy Berke. He set a new date of July 21.

Harold DePriest, EPB president, said he remains convinced that there was no "over-billing" of the city.

But he said EPB wants to get to the exact figures to make sure. "We want to do what is right," he said.

Mr. DePriest said in some cases it is necessary to go back beyond 15 years for the computation involving whether there was a charge for the old mercury vapor lights or the later high-pressure sodium lights.

The issue arose after the city, under the Littlefield administration, entered into a contract with the local Global Green Lighting firm for a major program to swap out all the 26,000 lights in favor of new LED lights.

However, Mayor Berke reversed that policy and passed a budget that pays only to put in LED lights as older bulbs burn out.

Mr. DePriest said EPB replaces some 1,000 lights per year for the city.

It was explained that when lights are replaced before their useful life that it involves "stranded asset accounting." He said it is like buying a new car with a five-year note and then replacing it with another car after two years. He said, "You still owe payments on the first car."

Mr. DePriest said the high-pressure sodium lights used less energy than the mercury vapor lights, but cost three times as much. "Basically, it was a wash," he said.

Ms. Gregg said she wants the EPB auditors to work closely with City Auditor Stan Sewell in gathering the numbers. "We don't want dueling audits that will require a third one," she said.


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