Hermann Electricity Rates Rising

1 decade 2 years 11 months ago Tuesday, April 10 2007 Apr 10, 2007 Tuesday, April 10, 2007 9:30:18 PM CDT April 10, 2007 in News
When you pay for electricity in most cities you get a bill that includes gas, sewer, electricity. In Hermann, that bill for many residents KOMU talked with doubled in February. And the cold temperatures only made up part of the problem. With Audrey McGuire's morning cup of coffee comes the wake up call it now costs more brew it.

"We live in a land of plenty, and we live like misers," McGuire said.

McGuire's utility bill went from more than $145 Jan. to over $300 the next month.

"It took darn near half of my social security check," McGuire said.

She complained to the city along with a slew of Hermann residents after the board of alderman voted to raise electric rates.

"It's painful when the rates go up ... absolutely understand that," said J.D. Lester, Hermann city administrator.

J.D is the city's new administrator, hired from Hermann's electric co-op to deal with the town's crisis.

"Can we do things better ... Yep ... I think we can," said Lester.

For years, the town used utility money to pay for other city accounts. A 2004 state audit warned city leaders of that method, saying the town "shouldn't generate profits to fund other services provided by the city." But problems came this year when wholesale costs for electricity caught up with them.

And the board was forced to add a special monthly charge because it ran out of utility profits.

"They realized they were paying 5.5 cents for electricity and selling it for four," said John Penning, former alderman.

Penning said his administration planned to raise rates slowly. But he got voted out of office.

"Had they done this, followed this plan, they would not be in the financial shape they're in today," said Rick Pankau, Hermann business owner.

Pankau's feeling the effects at his bed and breakfast in Hermann.

"They didn't misuse the money, they just used it for other things," he said.

His plan to deal with higher electric bills. "I've gone to the high efficiency bulbs," said Pankau.

And a steady diet of conservation.

"I turn everything off that I don't absolutely need," said McGuire. "I wish that two or three years ago, they would have added $10 to the bill.  Everybody in Hermann they wouldn't be in this fix their in today."

The problem only gets worse for Hermann residents. The city's current deal with its electric provider won't allow the city to purchase cheaper electricity until 2009. So the new city administrator says residents have three years to adjust to the new higher rates.

If you have a problem or concern you'd like us to investigate, give the Target 8 team a call at 573-884-6397, or email us at target8@komu.com

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