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Answers wanted on city power policies

Posted 12/24/22

To the Editor:

Over the last several months, we’ve had conversations with hundreds of Shelbyville residents concerned about apparent policy changes at Shelbyville Power to cut off electrical …

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Answers wanted on city power policies


To the Editor:
Over the last several months, we’ve had conversations with hundreds of Shelbyville residents concerned about apparent policy changes at Shelbyville Power to cut off electrical service with less notice (including the phasing out of cutoff warning doortags) and without accepting partial payments from families struggling to keep the lights on. Some residents on fixed incomes and assistance programs explained that the assistance checks they receive are often late through no fault of their own, and Shelbyville Power sometimes cuts off service (incurring an avoidable and costly reconnection fee) before they can get those checks turned around to the power company.

Dozens of Bedford County Listening Project members have gathered 187 signatures (and more every day) petitioning Shelbyville Power to publicly announce what changes are being made in the implementation of cutoff notice and partial payment policies, and why they are being made right as winter is coming on.

On November 9th, we delivered the first 100 signatures on that petition by hard copy and email to Shelbyville Power, requesting that General Manager Jason Reese respond to our petition by November 21st. The Shelbyville Power website and Facebook page subsequently updated information about a new policy regarding door tags, saying that Shelbyville Power will no longer put doortag warnings on residences with pending cutoffs (a policy which will inevitably lead to unnecessary and disruptive electrical shutoffs to customers who don’t even realize it is happening), but we never received an answer from Manager Jason Reese regarding our petition or additional questions about the partial payments policy. An article on our petition was printed in the Times-Gazette on December 10th along with comments by Jason Reese which still left several of our questions unanswered. After more than six weeks waiting to get clarity on both the doortag and partial payment policies, we attended the December 20 Shelbyville Power board meeting and asked Jason Reese in person if he would be responding to the petition; he said he preferred to respond in writing through the newspaper, so we are printing this letter in the newspaper to request a public answer.

In the last week, renters and homeowners around town have shown us that Shelbyville Power is continuing to put pink disconnection warnings on some doors even after the December 1 cutoff date - which is great! We hope that Shelbyville Power continues to provide this important warning to neighbors who otherwise might be put at risk by an avoidable disconnection. And we still want to understand the partial payment policy (in many states it is mandated by law that utilities must keep power connected while customers are paying what they can): will partial payments only keep the lights on during the 10-day payment period or will Shelbyville Power continue to work with residents to keep them connected to power while catching up beyond those 10 days?

While we wait for a responses, we are continuing to collect signatures on the petition (75 more Shelbyville residents have signed in the last two weeks), which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/shelbyvillepower We thank Councilmembers Stephanie Isaacs, Henry Feldhaus, and Thomas Christie for responding to our petition and encouraging Manager Jason Reese to respond (councilmembers Bobby Turnbow, Gary Haile, and Marilyn Ewing, we’re looking forward to your responses to our email as soon as possible).

We look forward to engaging on this issue and others in 2023, including:
•Exploring why Tyson and other large corporate utility users pay less per unit of electricity/water than residents do, and what can be done about it
•Exploring Percentage-of-Income-Payment-Plans (PIPP) that many other utilities use to cap utility bills to a reasonable level and help eliminate long-term utility debt for low-income households
•Better publication of how Shelbyville Power implements our city rules about postponing cutoffs in cases of medical hardship and when weather is below 32 or above 100 degrees (times when disconnection is life-threatening).

The Bedford County Listening Project