Selma power customers will be getting a reduction in their electric bills sooner than anticipated.
In a surprise move, the Selma Town Council voted 3-to-2 Tuesday night to reduce all electric rates by 10 percent effective August 1st.
Mayor Cheryl Oliver and Councilman Eric Sellers voted against the rate decrease saying they wanted to see the results of an electric rate study authorized by the Council in May. In May, in a similar 3-to-2 vote, the council approved spending $20,700 to study electrical rates after learning Selma’s wholesale power rates will drop by 15 percent once the sale of power generating assets from the 32 members of the NC Eastern Municipal Power Agency to Duke Progress Energy is completed.
However, Councilman Tommy Holmes did not want to wait until the study was completed, saying residents should see costs savings now, not in several months. Tuesday night, he approved a motion asking for an immediate drop in electric rates.
Councilman Eric Sellers disagreed with the timing of the vote wanting to wait until the rate study is completed later this year. “I think we can do more but we need to wait for the study.”
Holmes countered by saying citizens were promised a reduction in power bills and if the town kept waiting he would not be surprised if the rate reduction was little more than 2 or 3 percent.
“That’s not true,” Sellers responded.
Mayor Oliver said, “It’s not like how we can give them the least, it’s how we can the most.”
Sellers said he appreciated Holmes efforts to lower rates but was not in favor now.
After Councilman Wiliam Overby seconded the motion and Holmes called for a vote, Mayor Oliver attempted to block the vote by asking Town Attorney Frank Wood, who was filling in for Attorney Chip Hewett, if the vote could be allowed since it was not on the council agenda.
“I’m amazed you’re pulling that trump card,” Councilman Holmes responded. “We’ve done it before.”
Attorney Wood said he would have to research the matter to see if a public hearing was required before any changes are made to utility rates. “The safest thing to do is to put it on the next meeting agenda to make sure it is done properly,” Wood said.
Holmes and Overby replied the board has voted on water and sewer rate increases in the past in the same manner.
Mayor Oliver called for a vote, which passed 3-to-2 with Councilman Jackie Lacy siding with Holmes and Overby.
“It’s so irresponsible,” Councilman Sellers said after the rate decrease was approved.
With the decision, all Town of Selma electric rates will drop by 10 percent next month.