Marianna - After a year of record high electricity bills, Marianna customers may soon get some relief from Florida Public Utilities.
FPU officials announced Monday the company has requested a rate decrease from the Florida Public Service Commission.
The company is blaming this year's higher rates on abnormal weather temperatures, fuel costs and environmental regulations incurred by their supplier, Gulf Power.
But some believe the problem lies in the contract between the two companies.
Florida Public Utilities officials announced Monday it is seeking a rate decrease from the Florida Public Service Commission.
The rate adjustment would go into effect January 1st, 2011 and would decrease customers bills by roughly 3%.
The announcement comes almost a year after FPU instituted a 13.8% rate hike on Marianna customers.
"We had the lowest rate in the state for year after year after year, significantly lower than any other utility in the state," says President Jeff Householder.
The rate increase, combined with record freezing temperatures, caused many residential bills to skyrocket hundreds of dollars.
"The point we're trying to get across here is that we think we've seen the worst of this, sort of a perfect storm event if you will, that we're past all that and the costs are beginning to go down."
Householder cites roughly 75% of a residential electric bill comes from purchased power costs.
FPU purchases their power supply from Gulf Power.
"This is a fuel issue for us, not an operating cost issue, we're still operating this utility at very low cost, very efficiently, as low as anybody else in the state," he says.
But Marianna City Manager Jim Dean and Executive Director of Jackson County's Development Council, Bill Stanton, argue the issue lies in the contract between FPU and Gulf Power.
"The disparity between the ten year average and what we're paying today as compared to the Gulf Power rates is just you know, overwhelming, it just is not reasonable. Jackson County-Marianna is a low-income area, the predominant number of people in this community that are low and very low income is very high," says Dean.
Householder says the company is currently negotiating its contract with Gulf Power and anticipates another rate decrease depending on the outcome.
FPU officials say they are also formulating an economic development rate for new businesses.