LP&L was trying to be the good guy. Keeping monthly bills for customers at a constant level. But in the process it began eating the difference of rising fuel costs. On Wednesday, LP&L started a strict diet, trying to lose $18 million in debt but keep customers happy.
"I just shut it off. I just shut my deal off. I'm not having anything to do with LP&L anymore," said former LP&L Customer Mike Cantrell. He's disgusted with expensive electric bills and the news of rising rates. "I've had enough, yeah, yeah," he said, his head shaking back and forth.
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Starting May 1st, meters will begin racking up higher electric bills, but only for LP&L customers. For the moment, Xcel's rates will stay the same.
The 14% hike will boost the average monthly bill of $72 to $82. While Xcel, LP&L's chief competitor, charges customers an average of 20% less.
"Today was an exceptional day, yes sir it was," beamed Xcel community service manager Steve Deaton. Normally he receives between 6 to 10 new customers a day, but by 2 o'clock Wednesday afternoon? "We've received probably over 100 right now," he said.
So why should consumers stick with LP&L? "I think it's the service," said Interim City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. He says the utility is doing everything it can to cut costs, including a hiring freeze of 27 vacant positions, and laying off five employees. "So we went from 270 to 238. So, we're tightening our belt at LP&L," said Gonzalez.
But paying off an $18 million debt could take up to two years, and officials at Xcel refute the claim that LP&L has superior service. "We've got 175 employees in Lubbock, Texas that are more than willing to serve in whatever capacity they need to," said Deaton.