LAHARPE — LaHarpe electricity customers will pay more for their electric bills starting next month.
LaHarpe City Council members approved a 6 percent hike in electric rates, effective immediately, because of an uptick in wholesale costs.
Mayor Mae Crowell said the city was notified by Westar that the utility giant was raising the city’s rates 6 percent June 1, with even larger rate hikes higher by 2018.
Without the rate increase, the city stood to lose money for each kilowatt sold, an all-too-frequent occurrence in recent years.
Councilman Danny Ware noted LaHarpe has lost money in its electric fund in five of the past 10 years because rates weren’t high enough.
“You’re not going to be in business very long if you keep losing money,” Ware said.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Sara’Nicole Prock noted LaHarpe’s rates were the third lowest in the region.
The Council declined to take further action in anticipation of future rate hikes, declining, for example, to increase the base rate on meter charges for residents or business owners. The meter charges are flat fees each customers pays, regardless of the amount of electricity consumed.
IN A RELATED matter, former councilman Clayton Carr and LaHarpe resident Ralph Holland pressed the Council for answers on a pair of recent incidents involving the city’s electric service.
A recent storm toppled a power line, and with City Superintendent Shaun Atwood out of town — he was not on call at the time — a city employee contacted Carol Buzbee, former city superintendent, who helped re-erect the line and restore service.
“That totally blows my mind,” Carr said.
Holland said he was concerned about the city employees’ lack of training.
“If you’re hired to do a job, you should be able to do the job,” Holland said.
Carr also spoke about a Friday incident in which an employee for a private contractor narrowly avoided being electrocuted while helping replace a transformer because the wire was still live because some of the equipment had been incorrectly installed previously. The employee was uninjured.
Crews should have tested the wire first, Carr contended, regardless of how the equipment was wired.
Council members agreed to investigate the matters further.
THE COUNCIL amended the city’s ordinance relating to building incentives for new homes or businesses.
The incentives allows the city to pay for installation of electricity, water, sewer, gas, telephone, cable television and high-speed Internet, and one 20-foot entrance to a property at no charge to the property owner, provided the qualifying structure has an appraised value of at least $50,000.
The city has had such an ordinance in place for years. The amendment shortens the amount of time, to 18 months, for applicants to complete construction. The old ordinance allowed for 24 months.