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Pioneer to conduct public hearing at Monday’s Commission meeting

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

Pioneer Electric Cooperative will send a representative to a public hearing concerning high electric bills received by county residents set for Monday, April 25 at 5 p.m. at the Lowndes County Courthouse.

The hearing was originally set by the Lowndes County Commission for 5:30 p.m., but Commission Chairman Charlie King Jr. said the time was changed to 5 p.m. He also said the hearing will be held at the Lowndes County Courthouse to accommodate a larger crowd.

The hearing was scheduled after several residents of Lowndes County and Mosses Mayor Walter Hill detailed complaints over high electric bills. The commission further requested a rate card for the entire service area.

“People are going in the dark. Children are having to light candles in their homes because their mama, or daddy or their family could not pay the light bill… This is reality. This is no story,” said Hill.

Hill said he looked at over 3,000 bills with some as high as $1,200 to $2,200.

King confirmed Monday that the commission received a letter from Pioneer Electric that a representative would be sent. But King said the commission would like for Steve Harmon, executive vice-president and general manger, as well as the board of trustees of the cooperative to attend.

He said the commission made the invitation to the hearing “as broad as we could make it.”
In his letter to King, Harmon wrote, “PEC agrees to have representative there to answer questions regarding ongoing member concerns.”

However, Harmon continued, he met with other leaders within the county many times to answer the same questions. “Given this fact, I feel it to be counterproductive to our cooperative for me, or our board of trustees to attend your meeting.”

Harmon said Angela Green, a PEC communications specialist would attend to address issues.

When contacted, Harmon explained, “It is not the role” of the board to serve as “spokespersons for the cooperative.” He said the board’s role is to set policy, set rates and to provide strategic vision.

Harmon said Pioneer Electric is non-profit cooperative with no governmental involvement. He said last year the cooperative gave back to members a total of $700,000 after it went over budget in profit margin as a credit on their bills for five straight months.