OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) - The Osceola City Council has authorized Mayor Dickie Kennemore to begin the search for a new power supply company for the city.
The Council approved a measure to allow Mayor Kennemore to enter into a confidentiality agreement to discuss contract negotiations with several power supply companies.
"I am not at liberty to call any names at this time or give any terms. I will say that we have talked to at least three directly, casually maybe four or five," he said.
The move comes amid heavy criticism of Mayor Kennemore from residents who blame him for unfair rates on electric bills.
The change in power supplier could mean a decrease in Osceola residents' bills. "The rate payers could see as much as a 40 percent drop in their electrical rate," Mayor Kennemore said.
Mayor Kennemore said Entergy was the power supplier for Osceola for the past 30 years, up until about five years ago. "We were what you call a full requirements customer. They supplied the transmission, the substation, every facet of the electrical needs of Osceola."
He said when Entergy stopped serving Arkansas, the rates in the new contract with current power supplier, Constellation Energy, were less competitive. "We knew it wasn't as good as what Entergy had given us in the past, but it was kind of an okay contract."
Before the possible rate decrease can happen for people in Osceola, the city has to end its contract with Constellation Energy. Mayor Kennemore said the contract is set to expire "at the end of 2014," but the city wants to end it as early as January 2013, due to what the mayor believes is price gouging, and breaches in some of the contract terms.
Chester Jackson lives in a new home in Osceola. Jackson said he does not understand why his electric bill is so high at times.
"I know I had about a $723 light bill once upon a time, but now it's running $200."
Cody Moore, the Chief Financial Officer for Osceola Municipal Light and Power, said part of the reason Osceola residents' bills may seem higher than the surrounding cities is because other expenses, such as water, garbage pick-up and mosquito and bird control are part of the total.
"A lot of times our customers will compare this total with just an energy bill," Moore said. "If you're going to compare our bill to say a bill from Keiser, or Wilson, or Luxora, you have to take your water bill and your electric bill and add them together."
Moore said his office is working to bring down the main expense on the bill soon.
"We're aggressively looking for a new supplier with a new contract so that we can pass some savings on to our customers."
Anyone who wants an explanation of their electric bill can go to Osceola City Hall to meet with an Osceola Municipal Light and Power employee, or request an employee to visit their home and offer advice on how to make it more energy efficient.
The Osceola Municipal Light and Power office is located at 303 West Hale Avenue.
The office phone number is (870) 563-5245.