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PARIS, TN: BPU meeting covers loans, rate changes

November 23, 2016 GMT

The Paris Board of Public Utilities approved a price hike in the maximum amount for heat pumps from $7,500 to $8,500 during its Tuesday meeting.

BPU General Manager Terry Wimberley said the program now offers a 10-year loan for up to $7,500 at a 6 percent interest rate, which has been dropped from the original 9 percent in years past.

Wimberley said the program has many advantages for the BPU’s customers: allowing the spreading out of loan payments over 10 years, making them more affordable. The payments are made through the monthly bill (with no separate loan payments), and the customer receives free HVAC inspection after installation.

“While this is really positive for customers, the program is also good for the BPU with what is collected in interest, but we want to continue to be competitive, and we are competitive with the other area utilities. We don’t want our customers to have to go out and get another loan somewhere else,” he said.

Wimberley explained they’ve found that with increased prices, the original $7,500 wasn’t always completely paying for the equipment and installation.

Wyatt Glover, who oversees the program, suggested moving the maximum amount to $8,500, which would allow customers to have enough to pay for the equipment and service without having to seek a secondary loan.

The board also approved a resolution agreement with Jacobs Engineering to begin the second phase of engineering work on the water treatment plant construction project.

Wimberley said the money had already been approved in June in the form of a State Revolving Fund Loan of $500,000.

Wimberley said this would be the last of the engineering dollars spent on the project, and plans are to be finished with the first phase entirely sometime next summer and to move into the second phase of construction then.

The BPU is currently halfway into the three-year rate increase plan for the water department, and during December, the BPU would start looking at further rate increases.

“We always knew this would be a distinct possibility,” Wimberley said. “And in order to be ready next summer for Phase Two, we have to begin preparing our rate structure to see other funding possibilities.”

He added that after the five-year rate increase plan is over, hopes are to have a good break without rate hikes.

In other business Tuesday:

• Wimberley discussed electric rate structure with the board, saying he met with a rate consultant this week.

He said the electric department is healthy enough that there is no need for any kind of rate increase at least until October of 2017, and he has hopes to stretch that into 2018. Consumption of electricity has decreased in the Tennessee Valley, in part because of LED lighting and more efficient heating and cooling, as customers try to save electricity.

• Wimberley discussed the BPU’s involvement with the City of Paris and Trane Heating and Cooling Systems, as Trane has offered a wholesale change-out of all the city street lights to LEDs, along with a replacement of a filter at the Paris Civic Center’s pool.

He said the BPU has worked in conjunction with Trane and the city in an advisory role. The program would potentially allow the City of Paris to pay for the work in the savings it will earn in its electricity bills. He said the BPU’s original plan was to change out street lights over time as the lights on Veterans and Volunteer drives have already been done.

Discussions are still ongoing in the project, Wimberley explained, and the city has not made its decision yet.

• The BPU will host a public Christmas open house on Dec. 22 for its customers. Light refreshments will be served, and there will be several giveaways throughout the day.