City utility pledges to meet standards, customer safeguards, but wants to avoid costly process

Even if Richmond residents vote to remove the city-owned electric company from state jurisdiction, Richmond Power & Light’s local board of directors says it will still follow rate-setting procedures used by the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission, according to a resolution approved at its Oct 3. meeting.

The board has agreed to have an independent firm analyze electric rates and other charges at least every five years in a Cost of Services study. A third-party consulting firm would use the same kinds of criteria expected by the IURC. The board, comprised of all nine members of the Richmond Common Council, would then have to approve any rate increase before it went into effect.

Watch the full Oct. 3 RP&L Board of Directors meeting, provided by Whitewater Community Television.

RP&L has placed a referendum issue on the Nov. 8 election ballot, asking Richmond residents to remove the utility from IURC’s jurisdiction and oversight.

In the resolution, the RP&L board agreed to the following:

  • Programs, such as the winter assistance program from the Interlocal Community Assistance Program (ICAP), will continued to be honored.
  • Guidelines established by the IURC for service disconnection due to non-payment and reconnections will continue to be utilized, as well as IURC parameters established for late fees.
  • Any future proposed rate adjustments for RP&L require adherence to Indiana state law processes and procedures, including customer protection via the requirement for “nondiscriminatory, reasonable and just” rates pursuant to state law, customer input at public hearings, and rate adjustments approved by elected public officials.

In July, General Manager Tony Foster told the RP&L board that nearly all municipally owned utilities in Indiana have removed themselves from IURC jurisdiction because the rate review process is expensive. He told the board then that the 2019 RP&L rate case cost customers $837,688.90 more than it would if the utility had not been required to have IURC approval. Utilities regulated by IURC must submit to months-long, in depth reviews before changing what they charge customers or making certain changes in operations.

In other business, the board approved a contract negotiated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1395 union. Employees covered by the contract will receive raises of 5% in 2023, 4% in 2024 and 3% in 2025. Some other contract provisions were modified, including the addition of Veterans Day as a paid holiday. The IBEW’s local chapter had ratified the contract on Sept. 27.

Foster also reported that RP&L lineworkers had participated in the Indiana Municipal Electric Association’s Lineman Rodeo 2022. An RP&L team of Nick Maurer, Owen Welborn and Coty Bolin took second place in top rescue and in transformer change out. In the apprentice category, Mason Sullenberger took first place in pole top rescue and copper lift, and Matt Baker placed second in pole top lift. Peyton Hobson also participated as an apprentice. Serving as judges from RP&L were Chris Wagner, Dave Drudy, Caleb Ketring and Josh Hensley.

The RP&L board’s next session is open to the public and will be after the Richmond Common Council’s 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, meeting, at the Richmond Municipal Building, 50 N. 5th St., Richmond.

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