you're reading...

Cornelius News

ElectriCities budget shocks town board

April 9. By Dave Vieser. As the Cornelius Town Board considered the possibility of an ElectriCities rate hike at their April 6 meeting, one point was driven home: Doing so could really hurt some of the town’s residents.

The proposals under review by the board Monday included one scenario where rates could be increased by as much as 15 % annually starting July 1. That elicited a swift, strong reaction.

“This really concerns me,” said Mayor Woody Washam. “It would hit those in our town who can least afford it.”


ElectriCites serves about 40 percent of the town, primarily east of I-77.

Commissioner Thurman Ross, who lives in the impacted area, didn’t come out against a rate hike per se, but emphasized that “any increase would need to be phased in.”

Commissioner Denis Bilodeau was blunt. “This rate hike could be the final nail in the coffin for some of our citizens, coming on the heels of Covid 19.”

The need for a rate hike stems from years of deferred maintenance on ElectriCities equipment in


Cornelius, in particular the company’s substation on Zion Avenue, which needs to be replaced.

Don Mitchell from Electricities was unable to provide a precise rate hike estimate since the figures presented at the April 6 meeting were a combined residential/commercial average. Town officials say it will be several weeks before the final proposed figures for residential rates are known.

It will then be up to the town board, which essentially acts as the utility’s board of directors, to select an option. Towards the end of the April 6 meeting, a majority of the board seemed to be leaning towards delaying any rate hike until July 2021 due to COVID-19.

However, delaying the hike a year means the increase would have to be higher in order to raise the same amount of revenue.


Meanwhile, with a possible rate hike on the horizon, readers have asked Cornelius Today if the town could sell Electricities.

Not any time soon, according to Town Manager Andrew Grant.

“When the Catawba Nuclear Plant was constructed on Lake Wylie in 1985, Cornelius along with several other towns joined together to form the North Carolina Power Agency 1 in order to purchase a portion of the plant. The debt for that ownership share doesn’t roll off until 2032, so the town cannot sell Electricities until that debt rolls off.”


A planned 8-hour, system-wide power outage on April 19 to repair the Zion Avenue substation has been postponed until the fall. When first notified of the planned outage, Cornelius Today inquired whether it would be wise in the midst of the pandemic. However, town and utility officials said they planned to go ahead anyway. After NC Rep. Christy Clark intervened, they apparently changed their minds.