“We’ll never get this to where everyone pays their exact fair share, but I do think this plan is as fair as we can be.” — Seymour North Ward Alderman Jim Ashley
What does a city do when its wholesale electric bill jumps by more than $500,000 a month to $542,973.33?
It finds a solution.
That’s exactly what the city of Seymour did last Thursday night at a special meeting of the Seymour Board of Aldermen as the four-person board unanimously voted to approve a 24-month payoff solution proposed by City Administrator Hillary Gintz.
“We’ll never get this to where everyone pays their exact fair share, but I do think this plan is as fair as we can be,” North Ward Alderman Jim Ashley said.
“You’re spot on, Jim,” South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer added. “Our primary concern in all of this was to make it as fair as possible ... with that focus on our residential customers. This has accomplished that.”
Under the plan passed 4-0 by the aldermen on Thursday, the city’s 670 residential electric customers will pay an additional $11.48 on their monthly bills for the next 24 months to help pay off the additional wholesale electric charges passed on to the city last February when record-low temperatures and record-high snowfall struck Seymour, the Ozarks, Missouri and the entire Midwest for two weeks.
The city’s 130 commercial electric customers will see a monthly increase of $46.08 per month for 24 months.
Industrial rates were broken down by kilowatt usage, since one customer, Hutchens Industries-Steel Processors, used 92 percent (478,800) of the 518,091 kilowatts used.
In the breakdown by industrial share, Hutchens’ monthly bill will increase by $3,834.84, with Missouri Cabinets next at $241.18 per month, based on usage of 30,000 kilowatts.
Lucky Lumber used the third-highest amount of industrial power at 6,739 kilowatts and will see a monthly upcharge of $54.19 a month.
Seymour’s 22 tax-exempt electric customers, which are mainly churches, will see an additional $21.36 per month on their bills, per the formula passed last week.
The city has only one wholesale customer, the Seymour YMCA. Its monthly electric bill will increase by $788.75 per month for the next two years.
Billing statements received March 23 from the Missouri Public Utility Alliance (MPUA) in care of the 13-city Missouri Joint Municipal Utility Commission (MJMEUC) were a shock to city leaders, as a year ago, the city’s base cost per kilowatt was 2.15 cents.
This year, during the time period in February that covered the frigid temperatures, that cost was 22.78 cents per kilowatt, per the MJMEUC invoice.
In the interim, Gintz began working several options for the city of Seymour to pay the increase of more than a half-million dollars. MJMEUC gave the city 24 months to pay the full $542,973.33 with 1.31-percent interest.
In Gintz’s report Thursday, she said the MPUA was meeting soon with state officials, including Gov. Mike Parson, to seek a state-funded utility fund that would give the city and virtually all other Missouri cities a time period of 36 months at no interest to pay the elevated February bill.
She added that she couldn’t offer an opinion of whether or not if the fund’s creation would occur.
“MPUA is advising us to go ahead and put our repayment plan into place,” Gintz said in a written statement.
This way, we can begin passing on the cost to our customers and begin repayment with our April electric bills.”
The aldermen agreed.
“This bill isn’t disappearing,” Wehmer said. “Whether it’s right or wrong that we were gouged on electric like we were ultimately is something the courts will decide.
“MJMEUC wants the bill paid under this 24-month plan. And the fact is, we are MJMEUC. We’re one of 13 cities.”
North Ward Alderman William Pogue said that Gintz’s plan was fair.
“What we wanted Hillary to do was to come up with a plan that really represented our customers in the best way possible, and she did that,” he said.
“I was afraid the residential cost would be $20, $25 or even $30 more a month. The $11.48 for residential customers is something our people can handle.”
South Ward Alderman Nadine Crisp also voiced approval of Gintz’s repayment scenario.
“Hillary did a very good job on this,” she said.
“She’s very good with the money. This is a lot better than I thought it would be.”
After brief discussion between the aldermen and about five members of the public present at the meeting, a motion was made to approve the repayment plan, which passed without objection.
The repayment upcharges will begin being assessed on the city’s April utility bills, which likely will be sent on the final week of this month.