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Media Truth

BVU goes back TVA

by Lewis Loflin

Bristol Virginia Utilities will go back to the Tennessee Valley Authority again. BVU officials have announced the utility serving Bristol, Va., and portions of Washington and Scott counties is leaving American Electric Power and will partner with TVA effective Jan. 1, 2008, if approved Sept. 29 by the TVA board of directors...BVU officials made the announcement Friday morning at the company's headquarters on Lee Highway after receiving approval of the new 20-year contract by the BVU board of directors and the Bristol Virginia City Council. Company and city officials emphasized that the long term contract will bring rate stabilization to BVU's 16,165 customers.

BVU CEO Wes Rosenbalm announced what he calls a "blended rate increase of 17.9 percent." Residential, small business, commercial and industrial rate classes. Residential rates will increase approximately 18 percent. To make the Utility sucker feel better, "two smaller increases will be put into effect a year apart, with the first occurring at BVU's July 1, 2007, billing cycle for June 2007 usage. The second increase will become effective at BVU's June 1, 2008, billing cycle for May 2008 usage."

Bristol Virginia Utilities was with Cinergy and announced a 40% rate hike when they went with AEP in January 2005. Cinergy became BVU's provider when BVU left TVA in 1998. AEP to provided power through December 2007. TVA, headquartered in Knoxville, is almost 75 years old and is the nation's largest public power provider.

On October 03, 2007 the press announced a new sewer pact Washington County Virginia. Instead of Bristol and Washington County suing each other over a strip mall (cost to taxpayers about $2 million), they decided to work together. To quote, "The county gets more wastewater treatment capacity to serve its west end, without building a new plant. The city utility service gets an infusion of cash that will help reduce its debt load...

The county fought to prevent the annexation, since it would no longer reap any tax benefits from property that became a part of the city, which is an independent political jurisdiction under Virginia law. The city supported the landowner's request. The legal conflict continued until 2006, when a three-judge panel ruled for the county. Although an earlier ruling had favored the city, its leaders opted not to appeal. At the time, it wasn't clear what would happen next."

Without the agreement, the county was considering construction of a new wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $30 million or more to help subsidize the strip mall costing Washington County gave $10 million as it was. (That is what the legal fight was over.) The agreement is not yet final at the time as their lawyers continue to haggle over the details. Ref. Kingsport Times-News and BHC.

BVU customers get another 15 percent rate hike

Bristol Virginia Utilities, expect to pay about 15 percent more in the coming months. Wes Rosenbalm, who sits on the TVA Board and controls BVU says, "The timing is certainly not very good for us and our citizens, but we agree with TVA's goals of trying to achieve long-term stability." The TVA Board of Directors approved a 7 percent hike around February 13 to customers in its seven-state service area. BVU was already planning a June rate hike to be in line with TVA, whom they switched back to on January 1, 2008.

"Now TVA announced a higher fuel-adjustment charge to cover hydroelectric-generating losses caused by the drought." That hike takes effect April 1 and will cover what TVA pays for coal, natural gas and other fuel used for generating power and for the electricity it purchases, etc. Ref. BHC Feb 20, 2008

What is unclear does this include the already announced increase, or is it an addition to it? Angry residents on a local chat boards had this to say:

Thanks BVU! It puzzles me that BVU has only begin these rate hikes after they started offering Phone,internet and cable service.. kinda makes me wonder don't you!!! It's a shame that the people in the city of Bristol and outlaying area's are what appears to be powerless to stop this tyrant. Why am I forced to buy my power from BVU isn't that a monopoly wasn't that one of BVU's complaints when batting Embarq to enter the communications game they wanted to provide competitive rates for customers?

15%!!!!! It looks like more tribute money to feed the TVA, one of America's largest bureaucracies! Whose fat salaries are we paying now? I don't buy into TVA rate hikes, nor BVU's and question the credentials of those that approved them. I would like to see a listing of the total staff, positions, and salaries of both organizations. Then a forum created and referendum issued to elicit suggestions from paying customers on where fat can be trimmed with an ensuing vote.

I've sit with some elderly people (some in their eighties) and watched them struggle with trying to pay their bills, especially utilities, because Social Services in Bristol refused to help them. Most of them couldn't even buy the food they needed. Did we need the optinet that much????? They're not retires moving here, they are local people born here and struggling all their life to survive....

TVA needs to consider that smaller towns and rural area citizens do not receive the same pay scale that larger cities do. My mother is 87 years old and worked until age 65. She only gets a little more than $500 a month, because of what wages were when she worked. Her most recent light bill was $276, more than half of what she draws per month. There is nothing she can cut out of her budget to pay these ridiculous rates. Let the TVA executives try living on $500 a month and see how far they get.

I can't believe this!! I cannot afford to live in the Bristol Virginia area anymore..this is nuts!!! Since the beginning of the phone/cable/internet service at BVU they have had financial problems that have evidently been passed on to customers who use their sorry electric service. The electrical service and water service in the Bristol VA limits is so bad that we almost see a monthly power outage or water line break. Where is the money going?

No, It will cause me to move to the Tennessee side!

Wes Rosenbalm knew these hikes were coming before they decided to switch back to TVA. Did he forget to tell us that he is according to TVA on their board of directors? How much more is this community going to put up with nonsense at BVU? Wes after all makes over $120,000 a year at BVU alone. Six of the seven highest paying jobs in Bristol government is at BVU. How much more will they get next year?

This is absolutely ridiculous! I truly believe BVU, over the past several months, has raised their electricity rates to pay for the new fiber optic program they offer--despite their denial of this accusation. For those of you who support BVU's telephone/internet and cable programs-thanks for the increase...but if you agree w/ me, switch back to Embarq, Comcast, etc--don't let BVU win. BVU can say what they want--but I think they are hiding something. Just look at their debt-you'll get the picture.

This hike would be more justified if the man at the top at TVA, Tom Kilgore, was not being paid 2.7 million dollars a year. I cannot find it published anywhere but odds are that all the top execs at TVA are knocking a million plus a year. Hard to believe that TVA is a US government agency, isn't it?