Monday, December 06, 2021

Troy approves increase in power bills

| October 26, 2021 7:00 AM

Troy residents will soon see a slight increase in their power bills.

Following a public hearing, city councilors approved a 9 percent increase in electricity rates on Oct. 13. City Hall bumped its rates to keep up with an increase from the U.S. Bonneville Power Administration, Troy’s electricity provider, according to City Clerk and Treasurer Tracy Rebo.

The new rates will take effect Nov. 1. The increase brings the standard base rate up from $15 to $16.35 a month. The residential rate per kilowatt-hour will go from $0.0593 to $0.0647.

Even with the hike, Mayor Dallas Carr said Troy had some of the lowest rates in the state. Most of those who provided comments said they found the increase reasonable.

“You’re talking about 9 percent? We can live with that,” said resident Paul Olsen.

Some residents, however, worried the increase might hamper locals already in financial straits.

“I am sure most of your customers are not going to see a 9 percent increase in income this year,” wrote George and Carmen Erickson in a letter to the council.

Recognizing the city’s electrical department needed equipment upgrades, the Ericksons asked if the city could spread the increases across several years.

Carr acknowledged the Ericksons’ concerns were legitimate but said that if Troy waited a few years before passing along the full Bonneville increase, the city would fall behind on subsequent hikes. Bonneville increases its rates every other year.

In years past, the electrical department had absorbed hikes passed down from the federal administration. But starting in 2015 Troy began having trouble covering the increases, according to Rebo. Since then, residents have seen bumps of 10 percent, 5.5 percent and 5 percent every two years.

Keeping up with increases from Bonneville will help the electric department bring its equipment and vehicles up to snuff and bring on new employees to replace retirees. Clay Campbell, the city’s power manager, said repairs recently put the department’s 1980 derrick truck out of commission for a month.

“Our oldest [truck] is a ’79 and it's been deemed basically unusable unless we get caught in an extreme emergency,” he said.

Recently, the department put money down for a new transformer, radios and an infrastructure mapping service. To cover more of these costs, Campbell unsuccessfully pitched city councilors on switching from a flat rate to a tiered system earlier this year. The change could have bumped the city’s base rate up $2 and increased the average user’s bill by about $15.

During the hearing, city officials also addressed questions residents raised about funds the municipality received from renting out the city annex, which the electric department previously occupied. Rebo said that beginning in 2007 these funds went into the city’s general fund since the fund paid for the upkeep of the building.

When the city sold the annex to the Troy Volunteer Ambulance, $50,000 of the profit went into a reserve fund for the electric department.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Rebo said no utility company had approached the city hoping to purchase its electric department.