Only one Rolla resident attended the Rolla Municipal Utilities budget hearing Tuesday afternoon to offer opinions about the plan.
“I have looked over the documents, and I see some positive things and some negative things,” Tom Sager said.
Sager’s comments focused on the new rates for both the electric and water departments.
Those proposed rates, which have already been reported a couple of times in the Rolla Daily News, go up for some residents, down for others.
Here’s another recap of what’s proposed for the rates:
• Residential rates would be pegged at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s different from the current charge, which is 9.3 cents per kWh for the first 1,000 kWh and 8.3 cents for anything more than 1,000 kWh. The service availability fee, or SAF, would be $15 for each active meter; it is currently $10.
• Commercial rates would also be 8.9 cents per kWh. They’re currently in the same two-tier structure that is charged for residences. The SAFs would be $15 per active meter for single-phase and $20 per active meter for three-phase.
• Power service customers would pay 6.9 cents per kWh and a demand charge of $9 per kW used. The SAF would be $70 per active meter. Currently it is 6.9 cents per kWh and $8.50 per kW with a SAF of $20 per active meter. Also, the threshold for the power service class would be increased from 50 kW to 100 kW resulting in the elimination of church and school classes.
• Industrial customers would pay 6.7 cents per kWh and a demand charge of $9 per kW. The SAF would be $90 per active meter. Current charges are 6.7 cents per kWh and $8.50 per kW; the SAF is $20 per active meter.
• A new area/street lighting class would be formed, charging 8.4 cents per kWh and a service availability fee of $40 per active meter. For non-metered lighting, the charge would be $7.60 per month for 100-watts, $15 per month for 250 watts and $23.20 per month for 400 watts. Currently the charge for outdoor lighting is $7.25 per month for 100 watts, $14 per month for 250 watts and $21 per month for 400 watts.
Electric rates haven’t been raised since 2006.
• Water rates would go to $2.90 per thousand gallons, up from $2.70 per thousand gallons. Exceptions to these rates would be Public Water Supply District No. 2 and Missouri University of Science and Technology.
• Public Water Supply District No. 2 would pay $3.48 per thousand gallons; currently the charge is $3.24.
• Missouri S&T, which pays $2.60 per thousand gallons for all meters currently, would pay $2.90 per thousand gallons for all meters except six-inch; six-inch meters would pay $2.80 per thousand.
• SAFs would change from a flat rate of $11 per meter per month for every meter to a graduated rate ranging from $9 per month for small residential and commercial water meters to $125 per meter month for the largest, or six-inch, meters.
Page 2 of 3 - Fire sprinkler line fees would also have a graduated rate.
Sager, during the public hearing, said, “For water, I’m pleased the SAF is actually going down for small customers and up for larger customers. It makes an incentive to conserve.”
He also applauded the management and board for eliminating the two-tier structure, which he said also provides an incentive to conserve.
“Incentive to conserve and not use so much is extremely important,” he said.
But, Sager said, a 50 percent increase in the electric service availability rate puts too much of the charge “up front” and is a disincentive to conserve.
“If you will lower that and put the extra charge on larger users, that is an incentive to conserve,” he said. “Is it necessary to raise the SAF 50 percent?”
He suggested a two-tier structure on the SAF, making those using 1,000 kWh or above pay a higher SAF than the low-end users.
Concerning the rates, Matt Williams, secretary of the board, told Sager the purpose of the SAF is to try to collect fixed costs and then charge for the power based on the amount used.
“Our desire is to assign the costs to the proper category,” Williams said.
Sager said he understand that, but “I suggest you revise your philosophy.”
Regarding the SAF, General Manager Rodney Bourne told Sager the cost of service study indicated the SAF should actually be around $22.50, so some of the fixed costs are being assigned to the energy cost.
Sager said he was glad the SAF was $15 instead of $22.50.
After the hearing, Bourne said the next step is to present a formal budget document to the Board of Public Works at the July meeting. The final document will be presented to the Rolla City Council in August. New rates, if approved, would take effect Oct. 1.
Board President Nick Barrack allowed Sager to bring up an unrelated issue during the public hearing.
Sager said a drive down Forum Drive shows the large new poles that were erected appear to have a thick coating of rust. He suggested the rust be removed and the poles painted to make them better to the driving public.
Bourne explained that rusty appearance is actually a coating called “weathered steel.”
“That is the finished product,” he said, and sandblasting the poles would eliminate the protection from the coating and require extra costs of regular painting.
After that explanation Sager agreed it would be better to actually be protected than to look good.
Bourne said the coating is designed to weather and darken over time and as it darkens, it will take on the appearance of wood. Barrack suggested that Sager on his next trip west should look at the large poles near the Sugar Tree Road exit to see what appearance the weatered poles take on.
Page 3 of 3 - Bourne said more electrical utility companies are using that weathered steel look because they are as good as galvanized.