Licking Valley boss responds to customer complaints

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Complaints have ranged from the mildly inquisitive to the heated and even outlandish as electricity consumers seek answers to varying questions.

One thing remains consistent, though. Customers of Licking Valley Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation are not happy with what they have said is much higher electric bills.

Some Licking Valley customers have reported recent bills as having doubled and sometimes even tripled previous rates and are trying to put the blame on those operating the co-op.
That isn’t exactly the correct place to lay the blame, says Licking Valley General Manager and CEO Kerry Howard.
“People are upset and I understand that,” Howard said during a Monday interview with the Salyersville Independent. “Nobody wants to have to pay more, and the major part of the higher bills isn’t because of anything we’ve done.”
Licking Valley did seek a 10 percent rate increase, and in December of 2009 the company initiated a 9.3 percent increase that was approved by the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

“The rate increase did add a little to the bills, but it wouldn’t be the amount some people have reported,” Howard said. “The reason bills have went up is because the weather has been colder.”

According to Howard, 60 of 90 days during a span from December to March were below normal temperature wise, and he says that is what has led to higher monthly bills.
“Especially if you have an electric furnace, and even if you use a heat pump, temperatures like the ones we’ve had are going to lead to higher bills,” he said. “Some people understand and accept that and others tell me I’m lying to them.”
Howard said the rate increase was the first for Licking Valley, which serves 5,000 customers in Magoffin County, since 1998, and contends it was necessary to meet the company’s extra expenses.
“Everything has went up…diesel and gasoline, equipment, supplies, and insurance…it’s a culmination of everything, and it forced us to generate more revenue,” he said.
Licking Valley is a publicly owned, not-for-profit company that is owned by its registered customers in Magoffin, Morgan, Wolfe, Lee, Breathitt, and Menifee counties.
Some of those owners are planning a protest at Licking Valley’s West Liberty headquarters Thursday to, as one Morgan County man said, get some answers.
Howard doesn’t mind the idea of a customer protest, but says that co-op members can obtain permission and voice their concerns during regularly scheduled board meetings, one of which will be held Thursday at 6 p.m.
“People can ask questions and get answers. We don’t have anything to hide and we are there to serve the customers the best and most effective way we can,” he added.