Upon the recommendation of the town board, the Pioche Public Utilities (PPU) electrical/power system has transferred ownership to the Lincoln County Power District (LCPD).
A resolution passed by the board and presented to the board of county commissioners for approval states that public meetings held over the past several years determined “that management and employees of PPU are not licensed to work on the electric utility, which requires PPU to contract with LCPD to conduct maintenance on the system.”
At the Sept. 17 meeting of the town board it was determined that it was “in the best interest of the residents of the Town of Pioche to transfer ownership and management of the electrical utility to LCPD and took action to make that recommendation to the board of county commissioners to occur on or before Dec. 1, 2019.”
LCPD general manager Dave Luttrell said it really was the best course of action. “Some study work was done by PPU about three years ago by an engineering firm looking at what it was going to take in fixing some of the electric voltage, reliability and deterioration problems in Pioche and found that with their existing staff, who are not linemen, not electrically trained, they would have to continue to hire outside contractors to do the repair work. They came to the realization that it is time to have an actual utility operate the system.”
Starting in 2020, Pioche will become a retail customer rather than a wholesale customer. “Service will get better in the town,” Luttrell said, “not instantly, but over time. It will probably take about 11 years to get the system to be where it needs to be.”
Luttrell explained that costs are not being transferred to other LCPD customers to pay for immediate Pioche upgrades and that’s why it’s going to take longer.
Furthermore, Luttrell noted the electrical rates for people in Pioche will not go up. “The average residential customer will likely see his rates go down possibly as much as 11 percent, maybe less. Although there will be some exceptions.”
He added, “This is really a good thing not only for the town of Pioche but for all of Lincoln County. It’s very hard to operate electric utilities at a small scale. You need professional staff and professional equipment and this transfer will improve it for Pioche.”
Lincoln County has three electrical systems, LCPD No. 1, Alamo Power and the City of Caliente. Luttrell said when he came to work for LCPD in 1988 the county had 11 small electrical utilities, one for every 350 people.
As to what will happen to the existing staff at Pioche Public Utilities, Luttrell said that will be a decision made by the members of the town board.