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Section A: General News


FELPS set to tighten assistance voucher rules




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Wilson County News
November 6, 2013 | 1,686 views | Post a comment

FLORESVILLE -- The Floresville Electric Light & Power System (FELPS) here is looking at stiffening its policies related to assistance vouchers for customers with financial difficulties, in light of approximately $23,600 in vouchers issued by the Community Council of South Central Texas going unpaid. This balance accounted for $31,628 in bad debt charge offs for September approved by the FELPS board of trustees at its Oct. 30 meeting.

The Community Council offers assistance to low-income residents who fall behind on utility bills. FELPS General Manager Kyle Dicke said the debt occurred when promises to pay were not kept. Most of the customers involved, he said, have since moved off the system -- either by relocating or by their electricity service being terminated.

If after 45 days of a voucher being submitted, no payment is received from the Community Council, the debt reverts back to the customer. Dicke reminds those benefiting from such services that it still is their responsibility to follow up with FELPS to make sure their bill was indeed paid.

FELPS’ current agreement with the Community Council will last a few more months, Dicke said. Any renewal “will require a stricter set of checks and balances.”

Dicke admitted FELPS’ part of the blame in the matter, indicating that the utility now will be reconciling the vouchers on a monthly basis. While he could not disclose specific details on what FELPS is doing to correct the situation, he said, “There was some significant discipline taken in the utility billing staff. The next problems of this nature will result in a more permanent form of discipline.”

In a telephone interview after the meeting, Community Council Executive Director Bobby Deike -- who has held that position since August -- said his organization wants to work with FELPS to solve the problem. Deike, who previously worked with a similar utility assistance program in Waco, said vouchers usually are reconciled on a monthly basis and alleges that the outstanding balance includes accounts dating back as far as 2011.

Deike also said that the Community Council has asked FELPS for additional documentation so that they might conduct further research.

In other FELPS business, the trustees voted to approve FELPS’ 2014 operating and capital construction budgets, which become effective Jan. 1. The operating budget totals $30,106,000 and includes a 5 percent overall salary increase -- which comprises a cost-of-living adjustment -- maintaining current staffing levels, and no changes in the employee benefit formulas. With regard to the 2013 operating budget, for which FELPS forecast spending $28,701,070, the utility projects that it will finish the year at $26,747, 200.

The capital construction budget for the coming year totals $6,730,500 and includes projects such as continuing work to reconductor U.S. 181 from Dittmar Lumber to C.R. 320, upgrades to the utility billing system, pole replacement systemwide, and more.

This year’s capital construction budget totaled $6,030,917, of which FELPS expects to spend just $4,626,275 by year’s end.

Also during the meeting, Dicke informed the board that the purchased-power adjustment on bills mailed Oct. 25 reflects a charge of $23.91 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours, which likely is related to peak electricity demand during the summer.

The trustees also approved a bankruptcy charge off related to Stelera Wireless, an Internet provider that serviced customers in Wilson County. See related story, page 1A.

Floresville Electric Light & Power System (FELPS) board of trustees meeting Oct. 30. In attendance: Board members Larry Stavinoha, Patrick Pollok, Mark Moczygemba, Vernon Lambeck, Marlin Tanneberger, Ignacio Vasquez, and Floresville Mayor Diana Garza; FELPS General Manager Kyle Dicke and Finance Manager Marcy Jacobs.
 

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