LEXINGTON, Okla. (KFOR) – Though state leaders reassured many Oklahomans that they would not see a big increase in utility bills as a result of the arctic blast, they couldn’t speak for customers of unregulated power authorities. On Monday, one of those, the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, put a notice out to customers that they should expect a price hike.
“It almost, I mean it just took my breath away,” said Kaleigh Kaminski of Lexington.
That was her reaction when she read the note disseminated by the OMPA over social media.
The OMPA sent a message saying, in part, that “power providers had to pay millions of dollars more in fuel costs just to keep the lights on during the sub-zero weather,” and that “consumers should begin preparing for increases in electric charges to recover these extraordinary expenses.”
Kaminski said she already paid more than $400 for power in her small home in January.
“I dont know what we’re going to do if it does go up anymore,” she said.
The same frustration is being felt by numerous power customers who saw the message Monday.
“Our jobs aren’t going to give us a pay raise because there was a winter storm and it’s just a financial burden that I don’t know that many people are going to be able to carry,” said Andrea Nesbitt of Purcell.
OMPA is a non-profit authority that provides power to 42 municipalities up and down the center and to the west of Oklahoma, including Purcell, Watonga, Ponca City, Prague and Durant.
It’s governed by a group of representatives from its member cities, and it is not regulated under the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
OMPA General Manager David Osburn said the plan is to spread the inflated costs over the next five years.
“I think there might be a slight increase, but it won’t be anything like what you saw down in Texas,” he said, referring to reports of people seeing bills reach thousands of dollars.
Osburn said that over the summer when gas prices reached historic lows, that drop was reflected in credits to the municipalities who buy the power wholesale from OMPA, then turn around and sell it to their residents at a price they decide on.
“We’ve lived in the city of Purcell for almost 10 years and we’ve never noticed a decrease in price,” Nesbitt said.
This time around, they’re hoping they’ll be able to afford it.
“We’re already struggling as it is,” Kaminski said.