The City Council on Wednesday night conducted two public hearings related to utility bills.
The first public hearing was a proposal to create a flat electricity rate option for large industrial businesses such as General Mills and Lodi Iron Works, instead of the current energy cost adjustment (ECA) that causes Lodi Electric bills to fluctuate from month-to-month. The ECA is in place to help Lodi make sure it’s being reimbursed the price it pays for electricity. It has been a big help to the city’s efforts to get good bond ratings, council members said.
Council approved the idea of offering a flat rate to industrial customers as they admitted the effort was really a way to please Lodi General Mills executives that wants to offer their bosses at company headquarters a balanced expense sheet at quarterly meetings. For a company that spends millions a year on electricity, a six figure difference in month-to-month electricity bills is significant, City Manager Rad Bartlam said. General Mills is not expanding in Lodi in part because of high costs to do business. Balanced budgets for big employers can help the city retain jobs.
Electric Utility Director Liz Kirkley said the flat rate schedule would require a “true-up” at the end of 11 months, so the companies pay the full price of their electricity. In other words, implementing a flat rate would not cost the city any money, she said.
The item drew some criticism from resident and Electric Utility watchdog John Johnson. Johnson said in a letter that he wants to see a flat rate offered to all of Lodi’s customers, and not preferential treatment to big spenders. He further suggests that the rest of Lodi will essentially be paying for the large customer’s flat rate.
City officials said they don’t see it that way.
Johnson’s entire letter can be read by clicking here.
The Council voted 3-1 in favor of offering the flat rate. Mayor Joanne Mounce dissented for reasons similar to the concerns Johnson raised.
On the waste water side of things, the City Council held a public hearing for proposed raise to waste water rates. The city will hike prices by 3 percent. Public Works Director Wally Sandelin said the city had scheduled a 5 percent increase. Billing differences will be between $1 and $2 for most customers.