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 Knightstown Electric Bill Gives Local Man a Shock

April 9, 2008 - A quarter-century-old billing practice of Knightstown's electric utility was the subject of a citizen complaint at the Knightstown Town Council's March 19 meeting.

Darryl Hood told the council that electric bills for the 20 ft. by 24 ft. pole barn he put up behind his house on North Carthage Pike had been higher than expected this winter. He said his most recent bill had been $174 - $1 more than the total electric bill for his residence, which had used more kilowatt hours of electricity.

Hood said he only uses the barn about 90 minutes a week as a music practice space and that he had turned down the temperature on the barn's heat pump to 58 degrees in an effort to conserve electricity and save money. However, he said he had recently learned his high bills could be the result of the utility's billing practices.

Hood said when he came to town hall to pay his latest bill, one of the utility office workers told him the meter on his barn is being charged at a commercial rate that's higher than that charged for the house. "My question," Hood said, "was, 'Why?' I think that's a penalty to have a second meter and to be charged more. … It doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Mel Matlock, the town's works manager, said the town decided to apply the commercial rate to second meters in 1982. He said that was done on the recommendation of PSI, the town's electricity supplier at the time, and that the town would likely need to get permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission if it wanted to change the billing rate for second meters.

"This is just not practical," Hood said. "Nobody told me when they came out to hook electricity up, 'We’re going to charge more for this.' … This has just been a total shock to me."

Council member Terry Guerin said applying the commercial rate would make sense if Hood was running a business out of his barn. He suggested the town contact the IURC to investigate what options are available when dealing with a second meter on a non-commercial property.

Council Vice President Clyde South said he thought the billing policy sounded counterproductive. "The rate shouldn't be punitive just because guy adds on to or enhances his property and puts another building on it," he said.

Valerie Trump, the council's president, said she agreed that it seems punitive. She also said, however, that it can be difficult to determine whether property is being used commercially.

At Hood's request, Matlock said the town would send someone out to his property to make sure the electric meter on his barn is working properly. Trump also said the council would further research the billing policy.

 

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