Lawton braces for higher utility bills

Lawton_Consumers are already paying record prices for gas, food, and just about everything else these days.  But, you'll soon be paying more for your home utilities - water, sewer, and trash services.  AEP (American Electric Power) PSO says customers should expect their bills to increase 20-25% this summer, and in Lawton, the City Council is set to vote on Tuesday on an increase for city services.

Rising fuel prices are affecting everything.  To create electricity for your home, it takes power to run substations, and that power comes primarily from natural gas.  As meter readers make their rounds this summer, they know the numbers they enter can have a big impact on the families who live on the inside.  "The way I equate it, when you look at higher gas prices at the pump, it's the same type of thing we're seeing and we're just passing it through to the customer," says Tim Hushbeck with AEP PSO.

Hushbeck says the company makes no profit from the increased fuel charge that will soon show up on your electric bill.  "As part of our billing structure, we pass through the amount of fuel it takes to run the electric generators to bring service to your home."

PSO says that most families use about 1,000 kilowatt hours of power per month.  At that rate, Hushbeck says customers will pay about $17.50 more on their monthly bill.  "It's going to be reflected in the bills coming this summer," he says.

At Lawton's City Hall, customers who think that their water and trash bills are too high now had better prepare to pay more too.  City Manager Larry Mitchell says fuel prices have caused the city's costs to skyrocket this year, and that's without any operational changes.  "Same operation, same level of service," he says.  "It's just that our expenses went up about three million dollars.  The increases have just kept coming."

Mitchell says one of the only ways to cover their expenses is to pass it along to the customer.  He says that the average person should expect to pay about $10-12 more per month based on 3,000 gallons of water usage. That includes a $2 fuel surcharge.  Even after the increase, Mitchell says that Lawton customers will still be paying less than other cities in Oklahoma - including Ardmore, Bartlesville, Bethany, and Duncan.  "A lot of communities are above us," he says.  "I think we're providing a very good service at a very reasonable rate.  Obviously, other communities are faced with the same problems we're faced with."

When it comes to natural gas, CenterPoint Energy says customers should expect to pay about 10% more on future bills, but because natural gas use typically goes down in the summer, most customers may not even notice the hike until winter.

PSO has already begun mailing out the increased electric bills even though the Oklahoma Corporation Commission still has to approve the increase.  If it's accepted, it will remain in effect for at least one year.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.