San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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March 20th, 2008
The new PEC openness

COMMENTARY
by BILL PETERSON
Editor-at-Large

We are loving the new openness at Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC).

Among the reforms subsequent to the last year’s Sturm und Drang is a new nominating process for board elections. Candidates need only procure 25 member signatures to go on the ballot. The old process involved nominations by a nominating committee appointed by the board, which made it virtually impossible for outsiders to run.

Now, it’s virtually impossible for outsiders to not run. With the April 7 filing deadline nearly three weeks away, seven candidates already have raised the petition signatures to file. And why wouldn’t more candidates join the fray? The winner takes a $40,000-per-year job consisting of one meeting per month and a couple committee assignments.

It’s like a lottery, except the candidates have to do a tiny bit of work. Gather 25 signatures, win the most votes of seven candidates in the PEC election and you have a nice supplement to your income.

In fairness, the candidates all say they will push further reforms, and some have gone so far as to say they would cut the directors’ salaries. But we’ll believe it when we see it.

Surely, someone else noticed the other events at PEC in the last couple weeks. On March 10, PEC announced that a member-initiated class action suit against the utility had been settled. Under the settlement, members will receive capital credits averaging about $20 annually for five years.

Next, PEC announced – get ready for this – a rate increase of 1.1 cents per kilowatt-hour. A customer using 1,500 kilowatt hours, will see a monthly bill increase of $16.47. So, at the end of that little tradeoff, the customer is paying about $180 more per year for electricity.

Which just goes to show that all the PEC reform in the world isn’t going to save us from rising energy prices. Not unless PEC can find a way to slash about 20 percent of its expenditures.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s possible. If someone has a plan, that’s a candidate worth supporting.

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