Selma residents and businesses will see their electricity rates drop 10 percent on their Aug. 30 and Sept. 15 bills.
The Town Council voted in July to drop the rates Aug. 1, but Town Manager Jon Barlow explained at a work session last week that the town’s billing system would not allow it to easily implement the change on that date.
“It’s not a clean break,” he said.
The bills that go out Aug. 15, Barlow said, will cover about 20 days of electricity usage in July and 10 days in August. Splitting those payment periods to reflect different rates would be challenging from a billing standpoint, he said.
On the other hand, charging the lower rates for July usage would cost the town money, he said, because the town’s wholesale cost of electricity was not scheduled to fall until Aug. 1.
Because of those challenges, the council decided to send the Aug. 15 bills out at the old rates.
The council voted 3-2 in July to drop electricity rates 10 percent to pass along some of the savings it will reap once the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency sells its power-plant assets to Duke Energy. Selma is one of the 32 towns that agreed to sell their shares to Duke in return for lower rates.
As the Herald went to press, that deal was expected to close Saturday. At that point, Selma could see its wholesale rates fall by up to 15 percent, according to ElectriCities, which oversees the power agency.
Before the vote to drop rates in August, the council planned to wait for the results of a study it paid ElectiCities $20,700 to perform.
That study has two parts, Barlow said, and the first will tell Selma exactly how much it costs the town to provide electricity at its new wholesale rate. That differs for every town, Barlow said, because they each have different infrastructure.
With that determined, ElectriCities will study what rates Selma can afford to charge its customers. Selma splits its electricity customers into eight categories, Barlow said. Residential customers are divided by whether they have prepaid or standard meters, and the rest of the classifications cover commercial and industrial users of varying sizes.
ElectriCities expects to complete the first part of the study in August, Barlow said, and the council’s decision to drop its rates early caught ElectriCities by surprise.
“They basically had done the first model,” Barlow said, but ElectriCities did not punish Selma for the extra work. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve got the model built. I’m going to give you two studies for one price.”
ElectriCities has subcontracted the study to an out-of-state consultant, Barlow said, and Selma hopes to arrange a meeting with him before the end of August. The same consultant is working on a rate study for Smithfield, Barlow said, so he will likely try to schedule his travel around both towns’ calendars.
The Town Council signed off on the streets it will resurface in the next year.
The plan includes just over 3 miles of repaving work to be completed on 13 streets around town.
With the list set, staff will put the work out for bids from contractors. Selma would also like to surface the unpaved portion of Winston Circle, and it will include that work in the same contract.
Depending on how the bids come in, Barlow said, Selma might be able to add more streets to the list – or it may have to cut some to stay on budget.
At the work session, Barlow speculated that the bids could be cheaper than previously expected because petroleum prices have dropped in the last year. Another staff member said the contracts could cost more because lots of towns are looking to bid paving projects right now.
Selma hopes to hire a contractor and get started on the work this fall, Barlow said.
2015 Selma Street Resurfacing Plan
Selma has set the following streets for resurfacing. It also hopes to pave the dirt section of Winston Circle.
West Preston Street: 775 feet between Ethel and West streets.
Chestnut Street: Entire 1,535-foot street.
Primrose Street: Entire 1,135-foot street.
Walnut Street: Entire 2,240-foot street.
Center Street: Entire 1,430-foot street.
West Elizabeth Street: Entire 1,175-foot street.
Third Avenue: Entire 920-foot street.
West Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way: 1,430 feet between South Pollock and South Green streets.
West Waddell Street: 360 feet between North Massey and North Raiford streets.
Ethel Street: 350 feet between West Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and West Noble Street.
South Brevard Street: 330 feet between West Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and West Noble Street.
West Railroad Street: 2,000 feet from South Green and South Center streets.
East Griswold Street: Entire 2,210-foot street.
Source: Town of Selma