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City officials want to know if rebates would be legal

At least some Washington Electric Utilities customers could receive checks sometime around Christmas of this year.

The Washington Electric Utilities Advisory Board and some city officials are looking into issuing return-on-investment checks. City Manager Bobby Roberson, at the City Council’s June 11 meeting, asked the council to allow that proposal, along with others, to be discussed by the board so it could make recommendations regarding their possible implementation to the council.

City Councilman Roland Wyman, who attended the meeting, said, “I think, if I understand this correctly, Bobby is talking about floating the concept, and then we would start examining the realities of implementing this.”

Although the board did not have a quorum for its meeting Wednesday and could not take any official actions, board members and city staff discussed the proposal. First, it was decided to find out of the proposal is legal. Second, city staff will contact ElectriCities and the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency for suggestions concerning options issuance of the checks.

“I think some questions need to be asked. I think that the ElectriCities and NCEMPA people need to be asked what do they think about it. We would like input back on that. We may be starting something they really don’t like. With that brain trust, they may come up with either a better way to do it or convince us we shouldn’t do it. By the way, I’m not trying to take either side here,” said Stewart Rumley, board chairman “We need a lot more information”

Part of the discussion centered on whether all customers — residential, commercial and industrial — would receive checks. Another part of the discussion revolved around whether customers would receive checks for the same amount or if customers would receive checks of varying amounts depending upon how much electricity they use — a customer with a $100 power bill would receive less than a customer with a $500 power bill. There was debate over whether the industrial customers (about five) would be included among the other customers (residential and commercial) who might receive checks.

“Should we try to make it equitable? That’s my question,” Rumley said.

The discussion led to a consensus that sending out checks to customers would be preferable to giving customers credits on their bills. Board member Pat Griffin said he’s convinced customers would rather receive a check instead of credits. Board member Rudy Burns concurred.

Washington Electric Utilities has about 14,000 customers.

The board and city officials will look into the matter further and work toward reaching a decision by the end of the summer.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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