It looks like flip/flops might be the proper attire for one person up for election in Pierre next week.

I must have moved from Pierre a little too early, as I missed this wild ride of a city commission meeting.

As part of the setup, the city recently proposed raising fees on electrical late fees and reconnections. In some cases, they'd be raised nearly 1000%! Democratic Mayor Dennis Eisnach has wavered back and forth on the issue, while Commissioner Stan Schwellenbach had come out strongly in favor of them, and made no bones about it. 1000% increase? "That might be a good thing." Good. Let them eat cake.

But wait a minute..... Stan's also up for re-election next week.

From the Capital Journal (May 16th):
Schwellenbach said fees need to be raised because it's been almost 25 years since they've gone up, and they city is not making enough money on some of the services it provides.


However, Naze said the proposed increases are too high and should be adjusted for inflation - which in many cases would mean smaller increases - rather than the needs of the city to recoup costs.

"I would oppose, definitely, that high of fees for people," he said. "I could see an increase as far as inflationary dollars. The inflation price on that cannot be 100 percent, like some of them are suggesting, or 1000 percent."


Schwellenbach said that might not be a bad thing.
Read that all here. But what a difference a day makes. Or, possibly it's just two weeks closer to the election. From the Capital Journal on May 30th:
The commission voted 3-2 in favor of leaving the reconnect fees the same for those who've had their power turned off because of a delinquent bill. Eisnach, Jason Glodt and Stan Schwellenbach were the three "yes" votes and Larry Weiss and Laurie Gill were the two "no" votes at the regularly scheduled meeting.


Schwellenbach - who is up for re-election next week - has said in the past that he was for the reconnect fee raise because the city gives residents plenty of notice before their power is turned off. However, after the meeting he said the election is not the reason he voted against the fees.

The commissioner said he changed his mind after talking to the mayor about the issue and learning about the possible credit counseling.
Read that here. Sure.... It has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the election. It's ALL about credit counseling. *cough* baloney... *cough*


Anonymous said…
Why have those idiots not raised the rates in 25 years?
Anonymous said…
OK, some poor person can't afford their electric bills in the first place. Then the city wants to raise their reconnect rates 1000%?? Why not just give them a whale oil lamp, an icebox, and some corncobs to cook with and say good luck! Good grief!
Anonymous said…
Or the city of Pierre can send the unpaid utility bills to 1:30. You seem like the charitable type that would be happy to pay the way for those who aren't able to pay their own way. Or did you want the Pierre taxpayers to pick up the tab?
Jody Severson said…
I'd like to chime in here as someone who works with electric utilities all around the nation. Pierre is damn lucky to have Dennis Eisnach overseeing its city utility. He is smart, fair, and reasonable. He know far more than the average Mayor about utility issues. He's worthy of some trust in this area.

Two other points: by the time the Bush Administration finishes screwing with the Missouri River dam power system, and by the time 50% more coal fired generation is added and new technology brought on line to make it cleaner, the monthly bill adders you are talking about on this blog are going to seem trivial. The average ratepayer will be better off by keeping the focus on those big picture issues, and Dennis is extremely qualified to be the point man on that stuff, which is about 70% of the bill.

Second point: anyone who actually runs a utility will tell you that there are some people who are good credit risks who fall behind on their bills for legitimate reasons (medical bills, loss of job, divorce, etc). There are others who chronically game the system. You work with the former case by case and you'll get the money. However, when you have someone who chronically games the system, you need to crunch them with disconnect/reconnect fees high enough to make sure that no other ratepayer suffers for their irresponsibility.

One solution is to install prepaid meters on chronically delinquent accounts. It's a win/win deal. The customer has a mag stripe card they bring to the utility office to load on credits. When it gets low, they get a refill. It spares them the cost of disconnect / reconnect, it helps them learn to budget, and the affected customers actually like it because it allows them to save money AND keep their dignity intact.

Clients around the country with whom I've worked who have gone to prepaid meters for troubled accounts uniformly report that it works. I don't know whether state law allows this in SD, but it's worth checking into.
Anonymous said…
Jody, you wouldn't be a political hack, by chance, would you?

Eisnach good. Coal bad. Clean coal bad, but not as bad. Bush administration bad. Bush very very bad.

Go hug a tree.
nicholas Nemec said…
Jody has an interesting second point there. It looks like an idea worth looking into.
Anonymous said…
Prepaid meters might be a great idea for a lot of customers. I bet most of them would be Democrats. Seriously. That's not stereotyping, it's just statistics.
nicholas Nemec said…
They might be, most of the poor tend to be Democrats. I still think it's an idea worth looking into.

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