PUCO OKs surcharges for Youngstown Thermal customers


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Youngstown Thermal customers will soon have higher bills to keep their energy source alive.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio commissioners at a hearing Wednesday afternoon approved the PUCO staff’s recommendation on surcharge rates for 45 customers on the steam heat and cooling system.

The rates vary per customer. In its report issued last week, the PUCO staff recommended the 45 unnamed customers be charged a minimum of $100 each. After that charge, the staff allocated remaining payroll and health care expenses based on peak demand. The PUCO staff calculated each customer’s percentage contribution to the peak demand month for 2016, then each customer’s contribution was applied to the monthly payroll and health care costs to determine a monthly surcharge.

The surcharges are necessary, PUCO said, to keep Youngstown Thermal payroll and employees’ health care expenses covered.

“Without the emergency surcharge, it could result in closure of its facilities and failure to deliver service,” PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque said during Wednesday’s hearing.

Youngstown Thermal told PUCO it needs about $199,000 every month to meet its essential expenses, including payroll.

In Wednesday’s order, PUCO directed Youngstown Thermal to file final tariffs and to notify its customers of the changes to the tariff within 30 days. The tariffs will be approved effective upon filing and subject to final review by the PUCO.

Customers can contact the PUCO call center at 800-686-7826 to learn specifically how their rates will be impacted.

This is the second major action PUCO had to make to make sure there isn’t an energy crisis in downtown Youngstown. PUCO had the Ohio Attorney General’s office ask Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to appoint a receiver for the utility company, which the judge did Tuesday.

Judge Krichbaum appointed Reg Martin, owner of Columbus-based Martin Management Services, as the receiver.

“We continue to believe that the appointment of a receiver is essential and that it allows for an individual with experience in assisting financially distressed companies to take a fresh look at Youngstown Thermal’s finances and long-term viability,” Haque said. “We are very happy to report that a receiver with deep experience, a receiver who has handled more than a few hundred receiverships, was recently appointed the receiver for Youngstown Thermal. However ... while it is an important step, the commission with the help of the community must make every effort to ensure that continuous service is delivered to Youngstown Thermal’s customers.”

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