As is the case with many of you, I feel that most of my year has revolved around the ongoing battle between the City of Fayetteville and PWC. At times, it is exhausting. I need a program to keep track of all of the different charges lodged by city staff against the utility, because they change on a regular basis.
During the recent public forum arranged by City Manager Ted Voorhees, the latest in PWC’s list of heinous crimes was the expenditure of $500,000 in a five-year period on charities and local causes. Shocking! A business, because like it or not, PWC is a business, with a $350 million budget spending $100,000 a year on community events is disgraceful, right?
Wrong! Let’s compare that $100,000 to the $600,000 Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative doles out in one year in grants to area schools. That’s a good thing, but when compared to that, PWC’s civic involvement is chump change.
Like many businesses in the U.S., local giving has been on the decline, with business leaders encouraging their employees to become active in the community and to give back through volunteer efforts. At PWC, that is also the case.
PWC’s employees raised more than $535,000 in that same five year period for the United Way, It seems that PWC puts feet to their mission, and does not just pay it lip service.
If PWC and its city-appointed commission has committed a major crime, it has been in being too successful. Unless something is thriving, successful and profitable, no one covets it. Have you ever heard of corporate raiders going after a broke company? Not going to happen. If PWC didn’t look like a good bet, the city staff wouldn’t look at it like it was the goose that laid the golden egg.
If PWC was poorly managed or losing money, the city manager would not want it. That’s just one more problem he would have to solve. But because the utility is so successful, because it runs efficiently, it is something to be coveted. It is a means of making ends meet, while continuing to build a growing level of paid staff within the city. Thanks, but no thanks.
The reality in today’s world of constrained resources is flattened communications and command and control. There cannot be layers of leadership because that is not practical or affordable. The city cannot spend what it does not have, and if it needs more, than it needs to raise taxes or limit its expenditures.
PWC’s mission is to ensure that lights come on when their customers flip a switch and that clean water comes out when they turn on the faucet. They do that very well, and to the contrary of many who spoke at the recent public hearing, they do it very economically.
For those who missed the numbers the first time, let’s be clear: PWC’s residential rate is 4.49 percent less than the North Carolina average and 12.29 percent less than the national average. For industrial users, PWC is 3.27 percent less than the state average and 6.9 percent less than the national average, according to Electric City.
There are those in leadership positions who are encouraging the idea that PWC’s rates are out of line and are that way because of mismanagement.
Numbers do not lie; people do. PWC’s rates are better than most in the state. If someone tells you differently, look at what they want, what they hope to take and who they are trying to fool.
Anytime you hear someone talking about rates and expenditures but they can’t back up what they are saying, i.e., PWC has spent $500,000 on local issues, but they forget to mention that is over five years and is well below what other utilities spend; or who says that PWC’s rates are too high, but can’t tell you what they are, is probably trying to sell you a bill of goods.
Don’t buy it.