By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Residents irked at cost of electricity


September 14, 2017 | View PDF

The Seward City Council chambers were lit up on Monday evening for its regular meeting. Only this time, it was a group of local residents delivering a charge over high electrical costs.

Noting that some electrical utility bills had increased dramatically over the past few months, they urged the council to take steps to alleviate burdens placed on those living on fixed incomes and in year-round homes.

“It is making it hard for people on a budget,” said Susan Potter, a resident of Seward for the past 25 years. “For my personal family, and everyone that lives in my area, we really feel like we are being pooped on. We understand the cost of supplying electricity and overhead, but the other costs (city fees and tariffs) are hard. We would just like to pay for what we use.”

In some instances, residents have incurred electrical utility bills in excess of $500 per month during the summer. That increase, Potter said, has made it hard on those who live in Seward permanently.

At the heart of the issue for many is the city’s seasonal billing program. Under the plan, residents pay a higher summer rate for kilowatt hours than during the winter months. According to city data, the city’s customers are billed at 19.5 cents per kilowatt hour during the summer months. That inflated rate, which was designed to take advantage of the larger summer population, declines to 8.1 cents in the winter months.

City officials contend the high rate in the summer allows permanent residents to have lower electrical costs in the winter and spring.

Tim McDonald, who is running for the mayoral position in the upcoming October 3 election, said the city needs to look into making cuts to the electrical budget to make the utility more affordable. With revenues at approximately $9 million, he contended the city administration had room to make cuts.

“If we can’t operate it in a fashion that people can afford then we need to do something else, maybe turn it over to a co-op,” he said.

McDonald also suggested the city should look into a “burner” system for the sewage lagoon and dump. By burning waste and refuse, he said the city could generate additional power while also diminishing the amount of refuse deposited into the environment.

According to city figures, the City of Seward’s electrical rates are lower than many other communities, including Homer and Cordova.

The council has scheduled a work session for September 25 to discuss electrical rates and the future of the seasonal rates.


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