VEMCO rates drop with SWEPCO buyout

By Brittany Pieper – email

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) –VEMCO members should see their rates decrease by about 20%.  Larry Garrett was one of Valley Electric's 30,000 members. When his rates doubled a few years ago, he said it put him in a financial bind.  In January he drove all the way to Natchitoches to cast his vote for change.

"I went and stood in line for 3 hours. Cast my vote," said Garrett.

More than 7,000 people voted, and more than 95% voted to sell the co-op. SWEPCO bought it for $90-million, and starting in October, members across 8 parishes will see their rates decrease by about 20%.

"It will make life a little easier, particularly in these tough times," said Garrett.

Currently, his bill averages about $200, so he'll see about $40 in savings each month.

"I'm glad to be able to spend some on food as opposed to electricity," said Garrett.

Public Service Commissioner, Foster Campbell, said VEMCO employees will also benefit.

"All the people who work for Valley Electric now will be working for SWEPCO, and the pay scale for SWEPCO employees is much higher," said Campbell.

He estimates linemen will earn about $2-3 more per hour. Because the membership owned the co-op they'll also receive a check for selling it. Depending on how long someone has been a member and how much electricity they use Campbell estimates homeowners and businesses will receive anywhere from a few hundred to ten thousand dollars.

"I'm trying to get that check to them before Christmas," said Campbell.

Campbell also said SWEPCO will have more resources to take better care of the lines and facilities.

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