Utility refund not gift

By Dennis Minich

When Harrisonville residents open their utility bills this month, they may think they have received an early holiday gift. But the reason for the lower payment is not a gift of any sort, but instead, like an income tax refund, simply returning money which had been overcharged.

Acting City Administrator Mike Tholen told the board of aldermen Monday night that figures used for the power cost adjustment on the electrical bill had been miscalculated and that customers had been over-charged all year.

“When we were looking at recent bills, they appeared to be too high. When we investigated, we found the formula had been off since the beginning of the year,” Tholen said.  The cost adjustment is made monthly to compensate for the wholesale cost of electricity. It varies from month to month and season to season. The adjustment can raise or lower bills depending on the wholesale prices.

Tholen said the mistake was made by the city, but would not indicate whether it was an individual or department error.

The refunds will come during the next three months once city staff has determined the full amount of the overcharge. This month’s decrease is simply to get the refund process started. The credit is about 3.1 cents per kilowatt hour and refunds could be in the $20 to $40 range.

When asked by a resident about refunds for people no longer customers, Tholen said there is no system in place to offer them refunds.

The main topic of the meeting Monday night again concerned flooding in the city.

The first meeting of the month was preceded by a work session concerning flood plans and several residents expressed concerned that too little was being done.

Monday night, Paul Rydlund, from the U.S. Geological Survey, gave a presentation about monitoring systems which could be installed to help notify people in flood prone areas when flood waters rise.

He said the system could be installed as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers studies ways to lessen the area’s flood problems.

“If the corps of engineers is doing the legwork, we need to take advantage of the opportunity to use their model,” he said.

He said gauges could be used to measure rainfall as well as stream flow to help predict flooding and alert the public. He did note the system could be expensive and much of the cost would likely fall on the city.

Following the meeting earlier this month, Mayor Judy Bowman, along with city engineer Ted Martin, public works director Eric Patterson, State Reps. Donna Pfautsch and Mike Hafner, State Sen. Ed Emory, Aldermen Matt Turner and Gary Davidson, along with other members of city staff, met with officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation and discussed overgrowth in the creek and ravines on the city’s south side near I-49 and Commercial Street. While long-range plans are being discussed, the state did send crews to the area recently to clear brush and silt from the area. Tammy Caldwell, a resident of the Walker Addition, which has borne the brunt of the flooding during the past three years, complained the state’s actions weren’t enough.

“They’ve done nothing. For all the publicity they got, what they did was all smoke and mirrors. I’ve walked it and what they did doesn’t matter,” she said. “What’s the plan here?”

She was told the state is not finished and is returning to do more work.

At the end of the meeting, Bowman addressed residents’ frustrations. “These things don’t happen overnight. Things aren’t going to happen as quick as we want them to. But now we’ve got the government’s attention, both the state and federal. These are groups who can help us,” she said.

Bowman indicated MoDOT will be in the area doing more work on the south side of town and that plans are already being made for the state to riprap the creek. Riprap is used to help control erosion of the creek beds.

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