RED SPRINGS — The Red Springs Board of Commissioners on Tuesday threw its support behind a deal town officials say could deliver tangible electricity rate cuts for residents.
The commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution in support of ongoing negotiations between the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy, the nation’s largest supplier of electricity.
Duke Energy announced earlier this year that it is negotiating to buy ownership in power plants that have saddled more than 30 eastern North Carolina municipalities, including Red Springs and Lumberton, with high electric bills.
As part of the agreement, Red Springs and the 31 other towns would have to get their wholesale electricity from Duke Energy for as much as a quarter century.
Mayor John McNeill said the deal could allow Red Springs to get out from under the debt that has dramatically marked up electricity prices for residents.
McNeill said of the $4.2 million Red Springs spends on power each year, about $1.6 million goes toward debt, especially payments towards Shearon Harris, a nuclear power plant. The cost to operate that nuclear power plant “quadrupled” after Three-Mile Island, a Pennsylvania plant, had a nuclear meltdown in 1979 and regulations tightened, according to McNeill.
“We have much higher electric costs in Red Springs,” McNeill said. “To be honest, our rates should be 20 percent lower to be on par with Lumber River Electric Membership Corporation.”
Customers in Red Springs pay a monthly fee of $9.88, then 12.7 to 14.2 cents per kilowatt-hour depending on usage and the month.
“If approved, the result is that we would be in a position to significantly lower our costs and in turn lower the charges to our customers,” McNeill said. “We hope to do this sooner rather than later.”
The plan would have to be reviewed by the N.C. Utilities Commission in Raleigh, which regulates electric rates, and also by the Federal Energy Regulatory in Washington, which monitors anti-competitive utility practices and regional wholesale power prices.
The deal would also have to be approved by all 32 towns involved with Electricities. The deal could take up to three years to be finalized, the mayor said. The Lumberton City Council previously supported the negotiations.
McNeill said if a deal is made, participating municipalities would still be a part of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency.
Robeson County residents who do not get their power from Red Springs or Lumberton are served by either Lumber River Electric Membership Corporation or Duke Energy.
In other business, the commissioners voted to amend an ordinance on how tires can be stored.
For businesses selling new or used tires, the maximum used-tire storage will be no more than 150 tires on hand at one time. The change also requires all tires stacked outside to be marked with the date that storage began.
Tires can no longer be stored outside longer than 30 days, according to the amendment.
If stored outside, tires have to be protected from obtaining standing water that may harbor mosquitoes.
Residents or businesses not selling tires are restricted to no more than five tires on hand at one time and if stored outside, tires must be screened from public view.
The new rules takes effect on July 1. Violators could be fined $50.
Also on Tuesday, the town board agreed to purchase a new garbage truck for $155,000. The truck will replace one of two older vehicles that the town uses for garbage collection.