Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath, Glasgow Daily Times editor

Several minutes into the Glasgow Electric Plant Board meeting Tuesday, board member Libby Pruitt Short finally got a chance to speak, and her words pretty much summed up what several people in this city believe when it comes to the never-ending saga over power rates and the utility's management.

It's time to get down to business and get beyond the pettiness.

Short joined board members Jeff Harned and Tag Taylor in voting against firing longtime GEPB Superintendent Billy Ray — the second time this year such a measure brought by board chair D.T. Froedge failed to pass.

Too many good people have had their names and reputations run through the mud since this began in 2016, and there's plenty of fault on either side of the argument. It's time to move on.

What that argument actually is anymore is hard to define. It started with an uproar over Infotricity, but now customers have the option of paying through a more traditional rate structure.

The issue has turned personal with politics mixed into the fray. As Short said Tuesday night, even if Ray were to be fired, customers aren't going to see a change in their rates anytime soon.

I'll add that even if at some point down the road the rate structure is adjusted, you're not likely to see a major difference on your bill unless some major company or group of businesses in Glasgow are willing to absorb extremely high electricity costs to offset residential use. That's not going to happen unless its forced, and if it were, get ready to see a lot more empty buildings in Glasgow.

But as Short suggested, there are ways the board — the group that's ultimately responsible for approving rates and rate structures — can work with Ray and members of the community to help those who are truly struggling. That will never happen if we have to gather around the computer every month to watch the GEPB meeting on Youtube to see if the superintendent is going to be fired, or if a board member is going to resign.

The Glasgow City Council could start the process by considering an emergency fund that could be tapped when a truly struggling customer is facing having their lights cut off for lack of payment. The council spent $20,000 attempting to fire Ray and have board members unseated, so surely it can allocate some money to help residents who truly are in need.

If the utility is in as strong of a financial position as some of the board members say it is, then GEPB should look at lowering costs at least on penalties. For example, don't charge a person who is having a hard time paying their electricity bill a big fee to flip a switch to turn their power back on, especially if it's not a regular occurrence.

GEPB should also consider allowing customers to pay only their electric dues in order to avoid a shutoff if they're late on their total bill, which could include internet and cable costs.

And that's also where the individual customer's responsibilities come into play.

While there are certainly disabled and elderly folks who can't make it out of the house during a peak hour, or who must have medical devices plugged into the wall to survive, there are also plenty of us who don't make smart financial decisions. If you're having trouble paying for your electricity, then you should start by cutting expenses in other areas.

I've heard several times customers complaining about GEPB bills only to find out that a sizable portion of those charges were for internet and cable, which are luxuries. Setting your air conditioner at 70 degrees on a hot summer day is also a luxury.

These ideas are nothing new. I've personally written about them at least a half dozen times over the past three years. I'm tired of writing about electric rates. I'm tired of allocating this newspaper's resources to cover a feud that's based more on personal vendettas than evidence. In talking to people in the community, I gather most people are also tired of hearing about the GEPB. There seems to be a small group of people who want to keep this issue at the forefront for political and personal gain, because it sure isn't helping the residents of Glasgow.

As Short said, it's time to get down to business.

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears in the Thursday edition and at various times throughout the week. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com.