Concern about a proposed 4.5 percent electric rate hike by Overton Power District (OPD) No. 5 overflowed to the Aug. 28 Mesquite City Council meeting. After hearing from dozens of Mesquite residents, businessmen and elected officials, the council voted unanimously to request OPD to hold public hearing on the rate hike in Mesquite.
In a wide ranging interview with OPD General Manager Delmar Leatham, he admitted the failure to have a member of OPD’s staff at the meeting was unfortunate, but not intentional.
“I don’t want to say we weren’t invited, but we were never noticed or requested to be there by the city council,” he said. “Our position has always been… that the city council is an autonomous political entity just as Overton Power is an autonomous political entity. We don’t get involved in their affairs and they haven’t gotten involved in ours. In the past if they’ve wanted us present they would call and request it. I don’t know why that did not happen. It was a communication error I’m sure.
“We certainly had no problem being there (but) by the time we realized it was on the agenda and there was not enough time to arrange for somebody to be there,” he said. “I have been in touch with the city manager (Andy Barton) to discuss ways in which we can facilitate the request of the city council.”
Both Leatham and Assistant General Manager Mendis Cooper indicated they realized the need for providing additional information to the public now that the rate increase has become an issue. However, they disputed the idea that there had not been public forums for rate payer input.
Leatham explained, “It’s not a question of the information not being available. I think it’s a question of complacency. Most people, the lights come on and that’s all they’re concerned with. The Board meetings…they’re open board meetings, they’re posted, they’re open to the public, anyone can come and ask any question they want, request any information.
“Probably one thing where we have stumbled is with our workshops,” Leatham added. “We conduct (them) with the board at our monthly meetings. We’ve assumed if people were interested in the issue they would come to the board meeting or the teleconference (at the Mesquite office) and hear the information that’s presented there.”
To help remedy that situation they are preparing additional data to be posted on their website and Facebook page. Also the Cost-of-Service study on which the increases are based is available through their office and will be posted on their website. The proposed rate increases are presently posted on the website.
Leatham went on to explain that the increase was necessary to meet the requirements on their debt as dictated by covenants in the agreement with their lender.
“We’ve avoided raising commercial rates for almost seven years,” he noted. “Any increases we have done in the past have been borne by the residences. This last cost-of-service study indicated it was time for an increase to those commercial rates.”
Service rates are broken down into three categories; Residential, Small General Service (Small Businesses); and Big Commercial. When asked why some customers would not see an increase he explained.
“No, irrigation customers and small businesses are not going to get an increase.” He went on to explain that is not a revenue generator since many customers only occasionally irrigate a field or run a small pump.
“There are seven irrigation customers in Mesquite and Bunkerville. I think we have a total of 38. The revenue is extremely small,” he added. He went on to clarify that irrigation companies, like Bunkerville Irrigation Company and Mesquite Irrigation Company, as well as others, are considered big commercial and will be included in the rate hikes.
He noted that the small businesses, those using under 3500 kilowatt hours, many of which are Mesquite businesses, will not see a rate change.
The proposed rate increases will be reviewed and possible action at the Sept. 18, Overton Power District No. 5 Board Meeting. That meeting is to be held at the OPD headquarters in Overton. The meeting will be teleconferenced to the Mesquite office. Interested customers are welcome to attend the meeting in Overton or the teleconference in Mesquite to ask questions and provide public input.
Locations and contact numbers for the OPD are: Overton Power District No. 5, 615 N. Moapa Valley Blvd., Overton, NV 89040, (702) 397-2512 or Overton Power District No. 5, 731 Turtleback Road, Mesquite, NV 89027, (702) 346-5710.