Russellville resident Florence Randolph (front right) addresses the Russellville Electric Board, including (from left) electric board general manager Charles Canida and Bill Jackson as well as (back center) James McDuffa.

Russellville Electric Board discusses higher bills, board member compensation increase

Higher bills and increased board member compensation were two topics on the agenda for members of the Russellville Electric Board at their most recent meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, REB general manager Charles Canida commented on recent public inquiries regarding higher-than-usual utility bills, noting many calls had been received.

“Amy informed me that she has gotten a lot of calls about the high utility bills last month,” said Canida. “Most everyone that called, she was able to point out to them that their electric went up by a relatively small amount, and their gas portion actually represented the main increase. She stepped them through it on the computer as they had their bills in hand.”

Canida said most callers had gone on to apologize, not realizing the gas increase was the culprit.

“We’re glad they called and that we were able to set that straight with some of them,” said Canida, “because some of them just didn’t know.”

In other business, board member Bill Jackson brought up the compensation being received by members of the electric board.

“It’s been brought to my attention that one of the boards that’s basically the same as we are has raised their compensation to $600 a month,” said Jackson. “I’d like somebody to look into it, and if they have, I think we should raise ours to be the same because we are all on boards doing similar jobs.”

Jackson suggested bringing the matter up at the next meeting after there has been time to check utility board compensation rates. “If it’s justifiable, we can vote on it.”

According to Canida, the board member compensation range is determined by state law. REB members currently receive $400 per month, while the board chairman is paid $450. 

Current board members are chairman James McDuffa, vice chairman Nick Willis, secretary Chad Wells, Bill Jackson and Leamon Mosley. 

Also on the agenda, Russellville resident Florence Randolph spoke to ask the board whether a measure could be put in place for those who don’t have the money to pay higher-than-normal bills during winter months.

“Is there a way to put something in place so people who are elderly and on fixed incomes won’t get their power cut off because they couldn’t pay their bill all at once? Also for those with small children,” Randolph said.

“There’s a lot of people struggling, and people have little children. You don’t want older people or children sick and in the hospital. A lot of people have lost good incomes for one reason or another, such as a husband or wife dying, so we need to take that into consideration.”

Randolph suggested customers in this scenario should be permitted to pay a portion of the bill and then pay in installments until it’s paid in full.

Board members said they would look into the idea.

“I’ll appreciate that,” said Randolph, “and don’t forget the ones with children.”

At Canida’s request, the Board voted in favor of moving its April meeting to April 19 at 6 p.m.

Meetings are held at the electric board warehouse, which is located next to the Russellville Utilities main office on South Jackson Avenue.