PUCO recommends surcharges to help Youngstown Thermal

Staff report


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s staff has recommended surcharges for Youngstown Thermal customers the commission board will review Wednesday.

The staff determined there needed to be emergency surcharges on a fixed customer-charge basis for the months of July, August and September.

“The fixed charge is necessary to assure the minimum amount of revenue during the reduced usage period of the summer to pay essential expenses,” the staff wrote in a report issued Friday.

Essential expenses needed to be covered include payroll and employees’ health care expenses.

Last week, PUCO voted during a special meeting to establish the emergency surcharge on rates for Youngstown Thermal customers.

Youngstown Thermal is a downtown Youngstown utilities company that uses steam for heating and cooling. The commission’s report lists 45 customers on the company’s system – 41 heating customers and four cooling customers.

Carl Avers, chief executive officer of Youngstown Thermal, contacted PUCO, a state regulator, in June about a potential “energy crisis” in downtown Youngstown due to the company’s inability to meet expenses, such as payroll, in a timely manner.

The loss of a major customer in Youngstown State University and four customers not paying their bills are some of the factors that led to Youngstown Thermal’s financial struggle.

The financial struggle led PUCO to ask the Ohio Attorney General’s office to file a complaint to seek a receiver to take over the company and get its finances in order. The commission and Youngstown Thermal are to review receivers that could be appointed.

The case has been assigned to Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. A status hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 11.

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

In its report issued Friday, the PUCO staff recommends the 45 unnamed customers be charged a minimum of $100 each.

After the minimum customer 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 staff’s recommendation has to be approved by PUCO’s commissioners before any charges take effect.

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

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