Resident questions vagueness of bills
A woman who moved to the city in March wants to know exactly what she is paying for on her monthly electric bills.
Nicole Shively, formerly of Wellsville, brought copies of her bills to City Council on Tuesday and argued they should be more specific.
The complaint is similar to one councilman and mayoral hopeful Bryan Blakeman had earlier this year. He said city customers should be aware they are paying a kilowatt excise tax not listed in their electric bill.
Finance Director Mike Harold has said the tax fluctuates based on usage and is built into the department’s overhead rate.
Utility customers are charged for the city’s cost of electricity purchased through AMP Ohio, the department’s overhead for providing the service, and other expenses.
Shively said before moving to Columbiana she was an American Electric Power customer and always aware of exactly where her money was going.
“I just want to know where my money is going, what I am being charged for. This is just frustrating from my standpoint. I can’t see where it is going,” she said.
Specifically, she would like to know what she is paying for transmission and distribution, she said.
City Manager Lance Willard told her the city is currently working on listing all of the charges on the city’s website, www.cityofcolumbiana.org, so the public can be informed.
Over the summer council members did discuss the feasibility of listing the information on customer bills but determined it would be too difficult since there are three different rates based on kilowatt hour usage.
Willard had argued the bills are too small to feature the information and the city would have to pay for the additional space, ink, and software changes, which could be costly.
Shively also didn’t understand why the rates varied each month and showed that between March and September she paid between 11.67 cents and 10.93 cents per kilowatt hour, with the lowest rate occurring in July-August.
She said she was paying 13 cents per kilowatt hour on her AEP bill, which Councilman Lowell Schloneger argued is higher than what she is paying now.
Shively agreed, and said her problem wasn’t so much the charges, but that she couldn’t see them on her bill. She said with AEP she knew what all of her charges were.
“That is my problem, I can’t see it in black and white, I don’t know where it is going,” she said.
Willard and Schloneger said the rate fluctuates because the cost of power and overhead fluctuates. The rates are set by Willard on a monthly basis based on those costs.
Blakeman, who has said the city charges too much for the service, then said he went on the AMP Ohio website earlier that day and found three other municipalities whose total rates are lower than Columbiana’s this month.
Elmore, a small town near Toledo, charges 9.58 cents, Niles in Trumbull County charges 9.46 cents and Bowling Green 9.84 cents, he said.
The municipalities are also AMP Ohio communities.
Schloneger said when he looked at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio apples to apples comparison he found Fairfield Township pays a higher rate than the city.
Shively said when she looked online she could only find city rates dating back to 2010, and at that time residential customers were being charged 11.20 cents per kilowatt hour.
Utility customers are actually being charged less than that rate currently, according to figures provided by Willard that showed rates in September and October were set at 10.93 cents per kilowatt hour.
Councilman James King asked Willard how much it would cost the city to provide a bill to customers showing the soft costs.
Willard replied he did not know at this time.