By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – High utility rates on electricity and natural gas are on the minds of consumers and Brandon Presley, Northern District Public Service Commissioner, will be in town this week to hear complaints.
Presley will hold a “Ratepayers’ Forum” at the Yalobusha County Courthouse in Water Valley from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12. The event is free, and the public is invited to attend.
“We’re getting a lot of complaints right now about high utility rates on electricity and natural gas because it is the winter months, he said. “A lot of the people in your area get their power from TVA,” Presley told the Herald. “They raised rates last year the highest they have ever raised them in the history of TVA.”
The commissioner said he wants to empower the public to make choices about their utility service and show consumers how to save money.
“A lot of people feel like they are trapped,” he added. “They don’t have anywhere to turn. Nobody will listen to them. Sometimes the big utility companies give consumers the impression they don’t want to hear our complaints.”
Presley wants to let people know that hearing complaints is the job of the public service commissioner’s office. “Pick up the phone and call us if you are having a problem with the utility company. We intervene on behalf of the public. That’s what we do.”
The commissioner questioned the timing of the TVA rate increase that came at about the same time as the utility raised the pay of TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore.
“It shows you just how callous big utilities are. That they would throw out this big rate increase on the people and at the same time raise this man’s pay by almost a half million dollars. Whoever thought that up is someone who doesn’t have any compassion in their heart for folks.”
No Call List
Another topic on the minds of consumers is telemarketers, according to Presley who has one employee in his office dedicated to just telemarketing investigations.
“We’re enforcing the do not call laws seriously,” he said. “We issued $45,000 worth of fines last month to companies out of state who were calling Mississippians. In some cases one telephone call – one call – is going to cost those companies $10,000.”
Presley is trying to make sure consumers know not to give out information over the telephone. “A legitimate company is not going to want to take personal information from you over the phone,” he emphasized.
The town-hall type meeting in Water Valley is one in a series of events Presley has scheduled across the district in the coming months to hear directly from ratepayers and the general public.
“I want to give people a chance to come and talk to me, one on one, about their concerns regarding high utility rates and service, and how that affects their lives and businesses,” Presley said.
Since taking office in January of 2008, Presley took office in 2008 and is considered a strong advocate for reform of the PSC and consumer protection issues.