Pulaski Electric System will halt the suspension of disconnects due to COVID-19 as of May 29.
The PES Board of Directors voted to end the suspension of disconnects and created a five-month payment plan to help those with outstanding payments settle their accounts without losing services.
PES CEO Richard Kelley told board members at their May 21 meeting that the large majority of neighboring electric departments are also targeting a late May or early June date to resume disconnect procedures.
PES began suspending disconnects April 1, resulting in a total of 698 electric customers with delinquent accounts avoiding loss of service. Since then, 397 have settled their accounts, meaning only 301 electric customers still had outstanding payments as of May 21. The average outstanding bill of those customers is $205.52 with the highest delinquent bill at around $965.
When developing the new payment plan to help customers pay off their outstanding debt, PES analyzed average monthly bills over the previous year and came up with a solution to allow customers to spread their debt out over a five-month period on top of their regular bills.
“By October we would, hopefully, have that delinquent amount paid off prior to winter months when many customers see their utility bills spike due to heating costs,” Kelley said.
The new policy also addresses late fees which are 5 percent for the first $250 of outstanding debt before decreasing to 1 percent for any amount above that threshold. The average late fee for the 301 customers with current debt would be $11.74.
Delinquent bills can also be paid off via Power Pay, which still operates under the same procedures as before the onset of the pandemic.
Kelley emphasized, though, that while the suspension of disconnects will end May 29, PES will not be disconnecting all customers with outstanding payments all at once. Normal billing cycles will continue for each individual account with due dates and disconnect dates remaining the same as what customers are accustomed to.
“It’s an advantage to us physically because it spreads the disconnects out over time, but it’s a disadvantage in that it potentially slows the recovery of past due revenue. If we went and cut 301 people off who didn’t make the arrangement, you’d have a surge of people who would come in and pay on that. But I think we’d be doing a disservice to ourselves and our customers,” Kelley said.
Kelley added that Energize is in better shape than expected when it comes to outstanding accounts. A total of 205 accounts avoided disconnection due to the suspension, with 146 having since settled their accounts. As a result, only 59 customers are still past due on bills, which falls within the realm of a normal month of business.
The Power Board voted to approve the financial reports for the month of April, which saw only a slight dip in residential consumption but a significant decrease in industrial and commercial consumption across the board in the electric division.
Electric revenue for the month of April was $2,762,177, which was around 21 percent below what had been budgeted for the month.
Nearly all yearly figures are favorable to budgeted amounts with the exception of electric revenue which is around 5 percent unfavorable at $37,020,169. Around $700,000 of the $1.9 million shortfall in revenues took place in the month of April due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The financial report for the broadband division was much more in line with the projected budget. Broadband revenue was unfavorable by just 4.8 percent at $298,675.
All yearly figures are favorable to the budget for the broadband division with the lone exception being the broadband revenue of $3,053,356, which is less than 1 percent unfavorable.
Primary Substation Upgrade
The board also voted on a measure to accept three bids in regards to the primary substation upgrade that will be part of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget totaling around $860,000.
The original estimate for the project was $700,000, but labor and parts have come in higher than anticipated.
Discussion took place over whether the project could be potentially moved back due to the higher cost, but due to the relatively small yearly window in which the upgrade must take place, and the fact that pushing the project back could delay other projects, the board ultimately voted to accept the bids.
The 2020-21 budget proposal will need to be amended to reflect the new cost of this capital project.
The budget must be approved by July 1 when the new budget year begins.
In other business, the Power Board:
• Postponed voting on a meter purchase resolution due to delays caused by COVID-19.
• Voted to approve a resolution to request $4,600 in unclaimed property from the state.