Customers of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board can still have their electricity turned off if they owe money for other services after a decision made by board members Tuesday.

All but one member, Jeff Harned, voted to allow the employees of the EPB to continue to have the ability to use turning off electricity as leverage, when deemed necessary, to get customers to pay for their phone, internet or cable service.

The board needs to make a decision if it wants to treat electric differently, said Billy Ray, EPB superintendent.

The question for the EPB began on Nov. 13, when Mike Bankston called the Glasgow Daily Times to complain about the fact that the EPB would not allow him to pay his electric bill and have his cable turned off until he could repay a large pay-per-view bill he stated was accrued by his visiting son.

“They told me if you can’t pay one bill they cut it all off,” he said.

Bankston had a bill of more than $1,000 with less than $100 of it being for his electric, his normal cable bill and then more than $900 in pay-per-view purchases, he said.

EPB employees rebuffed Bankston when he offered to pay the $54.60 electric bill and by Nov. 13, he had been sitting in the dark for two days. Bankston had even received a voucher for $182 from Community Action of Southern Kentucky to help pay the bill and the EPB wouldn’t accept the voucher unless he could pay the remainder of the bill as well, Bankston said.

“They just cut it all off. They don’t give you a chance. I’m sitting here in the dark,” he said last week.

Ray, when first contacted by the Daily Times, stated he did not believe the board’s policy was to shut off all services if someone couldn’t pay one bill, but later stated that, unbeknownst to him, it was the policy and what happened to Bankston had occurred to others in the past.

Once Ray was made aware of the policy he allowed Bankston to pay just the electric portion of the bill and power service was restored to Bankston’s home.

Ray then said he was going to have the legality of the policy examined by board attorney Jeff Herbert, which led to the issue being on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

Herbert, during the meeting, said he could find no legal reason why electric can’t be turned off if money is owed to the EPB for other services as long as the electric shutdown follows federal laws.

“It’s very difficult to turn someone’s power off. There’s a lot of hoops we have to jump through,” Ray said.

The EPB can’t shut off power during certain situations such as when temperatures are too high or too low, he said.

Utility companies are the only companies that are required by law to continue selling electricity to people even if they are delinquent on their bills under the law, Herbert said.

The board has to think about the majority of its customers, said Board Member Linda Wells. It may not be popular, but the way to best represent the most people is to not pass on costs to the majority for those who refuse to pay.

“The incident that brought us to this was a person who refused to pay (the cable portion), he told us to do our damndest and we did. We turned off his power,” Ray said.

Harned questioned if it was right for the board to be able to cut off electric based on not paying for other services when the company has a monopoly on electric.

Board members also approved an increase in rates. The increase though is scheduled to coincide with a drop in costs form the Tennessee Valley Authority, meaning customers will actually see a decrease in their overall rates even with the increase.

The rate increase will pay for the bonds to build the EPB’s new substation. It is designed to raise just over the $670,000 per year that is needed to pay for the substation construction.

Daily Times reporter Lisa Simpson Strange contributed to this article.

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