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Boardman Seeks to Make GUC Rates, City Fees Big Issues in D4

By Dennis Mitchell
Election correspondent

Terry Boardman isn’t only challenging Rick Smiley for the District 4 seat on city council, he is also challenging Smiley’s vote of support for the Greenville Utilities Commission’s recent rate decrease due to the sale of its nuclear power assets to Duke Energy.

Boardman

Boardman at the D4 debate on Sept. 19

GUC had two real options for passing along the reduction in wholesale electric rates which resulted from that sale: 1) decreasing utilities customers’ bills by 15 percent, knowing rates would increase next year; or 2) decreasing the electric rate per KWH by 5 percent, and holding it there for the next five years. GUC chose the 5 percent decrease, a decision Boardman appealed to city council.

Boardman’s complaint to the city council is that GUC is hoarding cash instead of passing the decrease on to its customers immediately, as officials in Wilson, Rocky Mount and New Bern have.

Campaign photo

Smiley campaign photo

Smiley, on the other hand, sides with the GUC decision, believing the citizens are best served by the stability of knowing that the electric rate will be constant for the next five years. “GUC has long adopted a rational, long-term approach to setting its rates based on using an open and transparent process—as it has done for 100 years,” Smiley wrote in an email (in response to my query regarding his vote of against Boardman’s appeal). “The public will not be served well if elected officials, or candidates for elected office, impose short-term political goals on GUC’s decision-making process,” he wrote.

Boardman countered that politics has nothing to do with his concerns. “Rates are 8 percent higher than they would have been if the 15 percent discount was activated,” he said. “It’s a joke on the ratepayers, our rates should be 8 percent lower than they are now.”

There are other issues dividing the two in the race for D4. Boardman said, “There have been 12 tax and fee increases to city residents in the past two years,” adding, “I will reverse the sanitation fee increase and the stormwater increase scheduled for next spring and vote against any further increases in taxes and fees for the next two years. The citizens have had enough with fee and tax increases.” Boardman provided this document, prepared for his own use in the campaign, as evidence of the increases he cites.

Smiley, meanwhile, touts his ability to build bridges and find consensus.

“I have pushed for data-driven decisions, reasoned deliberation and civil, respectful debate,” said Smiley, who also highlighted his record of fighting for transparent government and pushing for more precise budgeting. “In prior years, the budget over-estimated personnel costs by 2 million dollars [by] incorrectly assuming all positions would be fully staffed throughout the year,” Smiley wrote. The incumbent added that his work on council has resulted in budget forecasts which are more precise.

The D4 contest promises to be one of the most closely watched races this election season. Boardman is known for his outspokenness, while Smiley has shown he is willing to challenge Boardman’s claims. After winning the district by 11 votes two years ago (following a recount), Smiley must make a strong case to voters for keeping him, or hope that they are turned off by Boardman’s “take no prisoners” style. Or both.

Either way, D4 could determine the balance of power on the next city council.

Dennis Mitchell is the Guardian’s election correspondent and a former At-Large city councilor. In the interest of full disclosure, Mitchell sits on the eight-member GUC Board of the Commissioners, and currently serves as the board’s secretary.

 

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