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Lansdale Electric Users Footing $237K Storm Bill

Tony Di Domizio

Thursday, March 6, 2014 • 3:20pm

LANSDALE, Pa. - The most recent wake of snowstorms, ice storms and days of subzero temperatures has burdened Lansdale with something worse than downed branches and mounds of snow—a $237,000 storm expense bill.

That additional expense will be paid back by about 8,500 Lansdale Borough electric users in their bills, reported Administration and Finance Chairman Leon Angelichio and Electric Committee Chairman Jason Van Dame in their respective committee reports to Lansdale Council Wednesday night.

If one used 1,000 kwh in January, then it will translate to an additional charge of $18 per user, according to borough Manager Timi Kirchner.

"We are estimating 1.8 cents per kilowatt hour," she said. "The best example: Look back at your January bill (to see if 1,000 kwh was used)." 

Kirchner said that Lansdale can activate a piece of an ordinance related to electric purchase power cost adjustments in the event of something extraordinary.

"We received a bill for an additional $237,000 and some change for expenses related to the storm, and all  of the complications that came into play to make sure the electricity continued to come into Lansdale," Kirchner said. "It was the first time in 30 years we experienced something like this. It's an extraordinary event." 

She said Lansdale administration is running a business, even when it comes to the electric department.

"When extraordinary costs come into play, we discuss how to deal with it," she said. "At this time, it will be taken from the reserves. We can say we'll absorb it, but that's just kicking a can down the road."  

Angelichio said there were about 3,000 outages at the peak of the power problems, and everyone was back in service within 36 hours.

"That's something we should take great pride in," he said. 

Van Dame said the borough purchases its electricity in bulk from its supplier, AMP-Ohio. He said the price of the electricity did not change; the adjustment was for cost distribution of the electricity, factored in with the stress to the system and the power coming from further distances from more expensive electric plants.

"We all have to pay it one way or another," Van Dame said.

Van Dame also reported that AMP-Ohio had called on Lansdale recently to do "load shedding" of its electric use. 

"We take the sewer plant offline and turn (it) on the generator, in order to run the electricity to the general public," Van Dame said. "It's something that may happen in the summer to meet the demand of air conditioning. It's the first time it happened this winter; it happened several times. It's a testament to how stressed the system has been." 

Kirchner said it was more efficient to charge the electric users for the additional expense. Fortunately, there is a way to reduce costs on the electric user elsewhere.

"Certainly, the finance department is looking for ways to mitigate the monthly expenses," Kirchner said, "so that it can be as friendly as possible to our customers."

Kirchner emphasized that "the lights stayed on in Lansdale."

"We got a lot of Facebook remarks and emails: 'I love Lansdale electric.' Let's keep that in mind," she said. "The lights stayed on in Lansdale."

She said because the lights stayed on, businesses were able to thrive a bit more during the storm.

"A lot of people came to Lansdale because the lights were on and businesses were open," Kirchner said. 

She reiterated that Lansdale is a business too.

"We have to take care of the cost of doing it," she said. "We can all agree this was an extraordinary winter."

Van Dame said the purchase power cost adjustment isn't unique to Lansdale.

"This is happening all over the region," he said. "Electric bills are skyrocketing because of this. It's not just Lansdale." 

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