Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Cheney council rushes resolution to fix billing snafu

 

February 8, 2018



Cheney officials took the unusual step at the Jan. 23 City Council meeting of requesting passage of a resolution without actually having an official copy of the document to present to council.

The resolution read aloud into the record by city attorney Stanley Schwartz, and passed unanimously, amended electrical power rate increases adopted by the council when it approved the 2018 budget. The increases would have created a billing error that could have had a huge impact on commercial power customers who exceed 15,000 kilowatt hours of usage.

In a Jan. 24 email, Light Department Director Steve Boorman said the error stemmed from the desire to simplify the electrical billing process, an effort that included removing the two-tier billing structure for larger customers. That didn’t work for commercial customers who exceed 15,000 kilowatts, where a demand charge also kicks in along with the charges for energy usage.

The resolution approved by council restored the second tier of reduced rates for energy usage once the demand charge takes effect. It also made the restored rates retroactive to the beginning of the billing cycle on Jan. 1, thus reducing the potential for sending out electrical bills that would then need to be corrected and credited.

“If that (second tier) was not put back in, some customers would’ve seen rate increases that were unacceptable,” Boorman said. “I don’t even want to tell you how high they would’ve been.”

The new rates established by the resolution affix a 6.10 cent per kWh charge on energy usage up to 15,000 kilowatt hours, after which the charge drops to 4.25 cents per kWh.

Boorman said there are only 27 customers in Cheney affected by these rates, which do not include industrial customers. Also not included are public facility customers such as Eastern Washington University and the Cheney School District.

“It’s not the big guys, or the little ones, but the ‘tweeners,’” he added.

The impromptu resolution passed on Jan. 23 was necessary for expediency to avoid unnecessary billing issues, Boorman said. To keep the process transparent, city officials intend to present an official resolution at the council’s Feb. 13 meeting for comment and passage.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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