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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Power rates to rise
Rate hike to take effect May 1

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville Electric Department customers will be paying more for power beginning May 1.

Martinsville City Council on Tuesday approved a rate hike on a 4-1 vote. Councilman Danny Turner, who always disagrees with city officials about electricity issues, was the dissenter.

The increase equals a little more than a half-cent per kilowatt hour of electricity used, according to city Utilities Director Dennis Bowles.

It is designed to help the city pay an extremely high wholesale power bill it received in January as well as offset anticipated future hikes in wholesale power prices, city officials said.

Customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in a month — basically about what the average household uses, officials have said — will see their bills increase from $105.60 to $110.95, Bowles told the council.

A kilowatt hour amounts to using 1,000 watts of electricity for an hour.

The city’s bill for wholesale electricity purchased in January for distribution to city customers was $2,248,197 — about $1 million more than officials had anticipated.

Due to that month’s frigid temperatures, customers used more electricity than usual to heat their homes. The city had to buy the extra electricity on the wholesale market instead of from its regular source, American Municipal Power, at inflated prices due to heavy demand by many other localities and utilities that were in the same situation as Martinsville, officials have said.

Also, the city had to pay higher fees to get the power sent to Martinsville over the regional electric grid, which got clogged due to the high demand, according to City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

The rate increase will be effective with all electric bills printed by the city on May 1 and thereafter, Bowles said. If a bill is printed on April 30, for example, it would not reflect the increase.

Officials maintain that despite the increase, city customers still will pay less for electricity than Appalachian Power customers in Henry County.

Also Tuesday, the council voted to proceed with plans to transfer the city’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, which also serves Henry County, to the Danville Redevelopment & Housing Authority.

The move is expected to save the city up to $65,000 a year by not having to operate its Housing Services Office on Fourth Street.

The council also adopted a resolution to seek a Community Development Block Grant of $943,904 for a neighborhood revitalization project.

The money, plus $233,000 that the city would put toward the project, would be spent to upgrade Franklin, Dillard and Ruffin streets and Warren Court, as well as homes along those streets.

Further details on these and other council actions will be reported in the Martinsville Bulletin on Thursday.


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