The Atlantic Municipal Utilities’ Board of Trustees Monday evening approved published electric and water rate increases amounting to a 10-percent increase in water rates and a 7.5-percent increase in electric rates to make up for wholesale increases in the cost to obtain electricity and other related expenses. AMU’s residential customers will see an average $6.60 monthly increase for their combined electric and water bill. Commercial (Business) users of AMU’s electric and water service will see their average bill increase by about $24.45 per month. The new rates become effective with the February 1st, 2013 billing.
During a public hearing prior to the Boards’ vote, there were no spoken objections from the public with regard to the proposed rate increase. There was one letter written by two Atlantic citizens regarding the City’s Christmas lights being on overnight, past the time when most downtown businesses are closed. In the letter, Eleanor and Leslie Becker questioned why AMU doesn’t try to save the taxpayers money by turning the lights off when the business district is closed.
AMU General Manager Steve Tjepkes explained the way the lights are wired makes it difficult to shut them off. He said the Christmas lights are wired into the street lights, which are on a photo-electric cell. When conditions are dark enough, the street lights, and anything tied into them, such as the Christmas lights, will turn on together. Tjepkes said he wasn’t aware of that until he received the Beckers’ letter and looked into it.
Tjepkes estimates the Christmas lights are on about 50-days during the season, for about 14-hours per day. He says based on the cost of energy, the cost to provide electricity for the LED lights is about $500 per year. Tjepkes noted the new Christmas lights are more energy efficient than the old lights. He acknowledged that AMU could work to switch the lights to separate circuits from the street lights, which would save at best “A couple of hundred dollars per year,” but Board Chair Larry Turner pointed out the cost to switch those circuits would “Be very expensive.”