City council wrestles high electric bill from winter storm

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The City of Wichita Falls is still feeling the effects of the February winter storms.

And, like other cities in the Texoma area, Wichita Falls was handed a high electric bill as a result of the storm.

While the city has savings to pay the bill in full, councilors say it would be nice to receive some help on this bill from state legislators.

$1.3 million.

Take that out of the city’s water and sewer fund because it’s going towards electricity costs as a result of winter storm Uri.

“It would seem to me and I think others that ERCOT made some miscalculations about what was going on. And to allow the caps to go from 9,000 up to 20,000+ seem to be an error on their part,” District 1 City Councilor Michael Smith said.

Energy prices and ancillary service prices soared.

Ancillary services are products used by ERCOT to maintain grid reliability.

The Texas Public Utilities Commission’s Independent Market Monitor recommended that ERCOT cap the prices at the energy price ceiling, but that was not implemented.

Texas House Bill 4492 aimed to do the same but was left on the governor’s desk at the end of the legislative session.

“Again the legislature strikes. Something involving millions of people in Texas, tens of thousands of businesses, many nonprofits that don’t have a lot of money to even operate on,” Smith said.

“I think it’s a travesty.”

While the council had several options to pay the bill, officials say it will be paid in a lump sum. And they chose the water and sewer fund because the city’s highest usage occurs in those systems.

“We all know that we are a wholesale water provider not just for the citizens of Wichita Falls but for 14 or 15 wholesale customers outside the city. We kept their water on too. So they should participate in these costs and they will through this mechanism,” Wichita Falls City Manager Darron Leiker said.

“They’ve at least given us time to get in front of council to do some talking about it, look at repayment options. We’re blessed in the sense that at least we have that, but still, $1.3 million is a lot of dollars and the citizens are gonna have to accept that we have to make that payment much like every other municipality,” Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana said.

A price tag that helped keep water flowing during one of the coldest times in Wichita Falls history.

If a change is made to the charges after the bill is paid as a result of legislation or a lawsuit, the city can be reimbursed some of that bill.

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