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Jellico public utilities board raises base rate, extends Rowe’s contract

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By Beth Braden

The base rate for electricity in Jellico will rise on recommendations from Chris Mitchell of Chris Mitchell Management Consultants.

“With the investments and the improvements you want to do for your system, you probably want a little more budget,” Mitchell said in a workshop before the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday

Currently, 21 cents of every dollar paid funds the distribution, leaving 79 cents for operating costs.

In October 2012, the utility added $1 to the base rate. That move generated $42,000 for the system.

“Is there not any room for cuts in the system?” asked board member Alvin Evans.

“Our payroll on top of this is gonna start coming way down,” said general manager Billy Rowe. Two linemen were moved from $23 per hour back to $16 per hour to save money Rowe said.

More cuts may not be the answer, Mitchell said.

“You’ve got inflation of fuel and labor costs going up, and if you do not have sales increasing in your business to generate funds for increased costs, then there’s stress,” Mitchell said.

The weather is partly to blame, according to Mitchell. Milder winters mean less energy is needed during typically high-use months.

“It’s mostly weather. The weather is different than it was years ago,” Mitchell said.

When the regular meeting began, the board voted to raise the residential base rate by  $2 and the commercial base rate by $3. Board member Venita “Cissco” Johnson and Evans cast the only dissenting votes.

Billy Rowe contract and bonus

Rowe will serve as the general manager of the Jellico Electric and Water Service for another year. He will also start his new year out with a bonus.

“Before Billy we had Mike Betherum. I think he was making somewhere around $100,000 and they were giving him $10,000 bonuses. Billy’s salary is $70,000 I think, and I think we came up with a $2,500 bonus for the money he’s saved,” said board chairman Darrell Byrge.

Besides serving as manager, Rowe also works overtime without charging it and does lineman work.

While Evans agreed to the bonus, he voiced some concerns.

“That’s [bonuses] the reason we got rid of Betherum to save that money, and we can’t keep turning around and giving it all away. But I think you have done a good job. I think you probably deserve that money and I’m gonna vote to give you that money,” Evans said.

The motion to give Rowe a bonus passed with only Johnson dissenting. A motion to hire him for another year passed unanimously.

Policy Change

Allegations of racially insensitive remarks on the part of the Jellico Electric and Water Service employees have prompted a policy change should a similar situation ever arise again.

“If there’s specific issues, I could look into it and report back to the board,” said board attorney Steve Hurst.

If Hurst is in charge of the investigation, it will “protect the board” from “due diligence obligations,” he said.

“If it involves the system, an employee or a board member, the protocol would be that you turn the details of it over to the attention of me,” he said.

Hurst would then look into the accusations and bring his findings and suggestions back before the board.