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Belhaven approves 8-percent decrease in electric rate

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven unanimously approved an eight-percent decrease in the electric rate at a Board of Aldermen meeting on Monday night.

The decision was made after the board heard a presentation from R.L. Willoughby with Power Services Inc. regarding the electric rate study that he completed for Belhaven. The board approved participation in the study on Aug. 10.

Although the study was expected to cost $10,000, the town’s electricity provider ElectriCities agreed to cover almost half of the cost, lowering the town’s payment to $5,700.

At Monday’s meeting, Willoughby recommended two scenarios (titled 8A and 8B). The 8A plan would allow for the eight-percent decrease now, but projected increases in years to come would likely happen sooner rather than later. The 8B plan also allows for the decrease now, and projected increases would likely be put off for a longer period of time, as compared to 8A, according to Alderman Julian Goff.

The board voted to participate in the 8B plan.

The decision to decrease the rate follows a decision by Duke Energy to buy back generation facilities that it previously contracted to municipal power suppliers, thus lowering the municipalities’ debt.

Goff said another aspect of the chosen plan is the replenishment of the town’s electric fund. He said the town could have possibly reduced the rate by as much as 12 percent, but the board instead elected to choose a plan that would rebuild the fund.

According to town manager Woody Jarvis, the town’s electric fund would not last long if the money was needed to cover all the town’s electrical costs — in some scenarios as little as two weeks.

“None of us really have a handle on what could happen,” he said. “It seemed to be a very good compromise.”

“We have done every percentage down to five, and after some discussion, it was my understanding that you wanted to see the one that best fits,” Willoughby said at the meeting. “We looked at 10, we looked at 11 … we looked at five.”

During the public hearing portion, Belhaven resident Lloyd Ballance expressed his concern about how sympathetic the board, specifically Goff, is toward the residents having to pay electric rates.

“Drop them now; raise them when you have to,” Balance said.

This prompted Mayor Adam O’Neal to vehemently dispel Ballance’s comments against Goff, calling them “obnoxious and obscene.”

But O’Neal also gave his support for the plan that invests money in the electric fund.

“(The electric fund is) available in case we have another hurricane or something like that,” he said.

“We don’t think about it until the power goes off. With weather, you never know what’s going to happen, but at least you can prepare,” Goff said.

In other news, the board also approved the creation of a utilities hardship committee, to which Woody Jarvis, Julian Goff, Robert Stanley and Amos Wilson were nominated.

The eight-percent decrease is expected to show up on November bills for October electricity usage.