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Is it a good idea for JCPB to buy Elizabethton Electric?

Staff Report • May 7, 2012 at 8:49 AM

No wedding date has been set, but officials with the Johnson City Power Board and Elizabethton Electric Department have confirmed the courtship has begun. As Press Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson first reported last month, the Elizabethton City Council is exploring the sale of the city-operated electric system.

While it is still too early to say what the asking price of the Elizabethton Electric system would be, Elizabethton Finance Director Jerome Kitchens said the deal would have to be worked out quickly because it would have to be approved by the Elizabethton voters in November municipal election. 

In order to place the referendum on the ballot, the council must approve it during the June and July sessions. The council also will get the final say. If the voters approve the sale in the referendum, the council must still vote to sell the utility.

If approved, it would be the last say the council would have until the franchise expired in 25 years. At that time, Elizabethton could buy it back if it chose.

Kitchens told City Council members last month that Elizabethton and Power Board customers would both benefit from the sale. Elizabethton customers would benefit because the combined system would use the Power Board rate schedule, which is slightly lower than the rate charged by Elizabethton. The average savings would be about $50 a year for residential customers. Small Elizabethton businesses also would see a savings.

Larger commercial customers would see a slight increase. There would be no immediate change to Power Board customers’ bills. Currently, the JCPB has 75,780 customers and the EEB has 26,044 customers.

Power Board officials say talks between the two utilities are just beginning and it could be long process. Press staff writer Madison Mathews reported the Power Board released a statement last month saying it “will begin its due diligence to prepare for any forthcoming negotiations.”

JCPB Chief Public Relations Officer Robert White said part of that process includes evaluating the EED system and determining a purchase price for the Elizabethton utility.

“So much is still in their court, so we’re really a little tentative about what we’re really going to say because it’s really not on us yet,” he said.

We want to hear what you think. Is it a good idea for the Johnson City Power Board to buy the Elizabethton Electric Department?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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