Mosses considers lawsuit against Pioneer

Published 9:13 am Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Lowndes Signal

Citing failure of recent talks, Mosses Mayor Walter Hill told the town council last Tuesday that the town of Mosses may be suing Pioneer Electric.

Hill said he would pursue the lawsuit even if the case is not pursued by any of the Lowndes County Commissioners.

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Mosses citizen Kelly Thomas addressed the town council about an increase in her power bill and asked what she and other citizens could do to “alleviate the problem.”

“I’ve been in Mosses since 1974 and Pioneer has been doing the same thing,” said Thomas. “My bill is over $300 every month for a small, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.”
Hill stated there have been two attorneys assigned to the case and said that it will address

individuals found through the town’s and county’s research that may have been overcharged in one manner or another.

“We know we are within our rights to move forward with litigation,” said Hill.

Steve Harmon of Pioneer Electric stated suing Pioneer would be “absorbed by the entire cooperative membership.”

“If any members sue a cooperative, the members are suing the business they own,” said Harmon.

Hill did not say when the lawsuit would be filed, however he did state he will soon turn additional documents over to his attorneys and will pursue pending approval of the town council.

Other discussions were raised by Thomas about the possibility of bringing another power company into the county or town to help the rate of power bills.

“There are some things that will allow a municipality to bring another power company in on its own,” said Hill.

Research regarding the replacement of Pioneer in certain areas of the county is being researched and presented to Senator and Lowndes County Attorney Hank Sanders.

Hill said his office currently holds documents including over 3,000 bills from county residents to be used in the litigation.

Talks with Hill, the Lowndes County Commission and Steve Harmon of Pioneer were held over the past couple of months to address citizens’ concerns and possible solutions.

A solution was suggested for a customer service center be placed in Lowndes County for easier access for citizens to pay their bills.

“The customer service center issue hasn’t been decided either way,” said Harmon. “Our preliminary announcement was that it would be costly and there may be other options available.”

Pioneer is researching partnerships with local banks to allow customers to more conveniently make their bill payments, according to Harmon.

The suggestion of placing a moratorium on disconnect and reconnect fees was mentioned, but Harmon stated that could not be done.

Harmon stated that Pioneer will not be putting a moratorium on late fees or reconnect fees.

“There is a personal responsibility on all of our customers to pay their bills,” said Harmon. “We have payment arrangement policies and work with folks as much as we can. This is not fair to the rest of our customers.”

Harmon stated “Pioneer looking at the amount of energy costs for the rest of the year and will follow up with a press release in the future. The concept of an excess margin refund is uncommon and Pioneer is attempting to be proactive in giving back value to the members.”