EPB Banking On "Normal Weather", But That Is Not The New Norm

Thursday, June 26, 2014

EPB officials said in the new budget they are hoping for "normal weather," but that has not been the norm in recent years.

Harold DePriest, EPB president, said in earlier years the utility spent about $2 million per year for storm damage caused by volatile weather.

But in recent years that number has soared, including the over $30 million spent in the year of the deadly tornadoes - 2011. EPB's cost, after FEMA payments, was $9 million for 2011.

EPB now budgets $4.2 million for annual storm cleanup.

Mr. DePriest said the high cost of storm damage has been a big blow to the electric budget. But he said the surge of income from the utility's newer businesses has more than made up for it.

EPB brought in $27 million from the non-electrical side this year.

Mr. DePriest said without that new-found income, "We would be looking at a five percent electric rate increase this year."

There are currently 64,000 customers for phone, TV and Internet, and it is expected to rise to over 70,000 by the end of the coming fiscal year.

The original model for the side businesses was to have at least 43,000 sign up.

Board Chairman Joe Ferguson said the board needs to get a handle on the appropriations it gives to groups in the community that promote economic development. He asked that the staff compile a list of those currently receiving funds and those expected to make requests.

EPB has been a big contributor to the Chamber of Commerce for its economic development efforts, including the period when it was courting Volkswagen.

Kim White of the River City Company recently asked EPB to provide $25,000 per year over the next four years to go for staff salaries.

Officials said the line item for such requests has been raised from $300,000 to $330,000.

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