ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — The city council voted this week to raise electric rates by another 11.5 percent. People in the area already struggling to pay high energy bills said the increase will be a hardship.
Njeri Fikes helps take care of her mother who is recovering from a stroke. Fikes said her mother lives alone in Rocky Mount and often struggles to pay the utility bill.
Fikes said her mother’s windows are covered in plastic to help with insulation. Despite the insulation, Fikes said her mother has paid electric bills totaling more than $500 a month, which is more than her mortgage payment.
“When you look at paying a utility bill that's more than some people pay for rent, that's a problem,” Fikes said.
The new rates take effect Friday. City leaders said the increase was necessary because its supplier recently raised rates by 14 percent.
“It’s going to be a lot of economic hardship for a lot of people,” Fikes said.
North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency officials cited increased energy production costs for the higher rate. Rocky Mount will pay about $9 million more a year in energy production costs.
“There's no way the city of Rocky Mount could absorb any part of that cost. We had no choice but to pass that on,” said Richard Worsinger, the city’s public utilities director.
Worsinger said Rocky Mount utility bills include all services, not just power.
Customers in Rocky Mount pay up to 20 percent more than people in the Triangle. The higher numbers is partly due to Rocky Mount paying off debt on generating stations.
“Our rate, the way any utilities rate is designed is to cover costs,” Worsinger said.
Rocky Mount city leaders will review the city’s energy assistance program again this winter to help meet additional need.