By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
Rising costs for oil and gas as well as wood and steel are forcing Roosevelt County Electric Coop to raise rates for their more than 6,000 customers for the first time in more than 22 years.
In a letter mailed to all members earlier this month, the Coop announced an average residential increase of 5.91 percent to become effective one month after the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission rules on the increase on Aug. 17.
RCEC general manager Jerry Partin explained some of the factors in the decision to raise rates.
“In the last three years, maintenance materials and transportation has really increased. The cost of gasoline for one thing, running our trucks and operating our vehicles up and down the road, has been one significant impact,” Partin said.
Partin also explained that the cost of many other materials the Coop uses has increased by as much as 100 percent in the last three years.
“Anything made of steel, aluminum, copper or wood has just skyrocketed in price,” Partin said. “For 22 years, when those costs were pretty much in line, it went up a little bit but so did our sales.”
The RCEC uses these materials for their poles, wires and cross-arms.
“We’ve held the line for 22 years and we feel like that we have done a pretty good job there but costs have just skyrocketed and we just can’t do it any other way,” Board president Pat Boone IV said.
The rate increase could be anywhere from 2.5 percent to 12 percent, depending on the rate class, but Partin says the average rate increase for the typical residential consumer will be 5.91 percent.
“If these increases in prices would have happened a little slower, say over a five or six year period instead of a two or three year period, I think we could have grown into not having a need for a rate increase,” Partin said.
“We don’t have a choice. When the line goes down, we have to put it back up. And that requires new poles, new insulators, new hardware and as we do maintenance it just takes all those materials.”