KCBD INVESTIGATES: LP&L's party budget - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

KCBD INVESTIGATES: LP&L's party budget, a KCBD/Sandstorm Scholar Investigation

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

LP&L generated a lot of new revenue in 2013, but there are two sides to that equation. We took a look at how much the utility is spending, specifically at how much they spend on parties and employee appreciation.

They say they've made cuts, but are they still spending too much?

After a year of controversy and rate hikes, LP&L is still spending thousands on parties and employee events, while many customers struggle to keep the lights on.

Take Wesley Mitchell, who lives simply in his one-bedroom apartment.

"I mean nothing, there's no computer, just a refrigerator," Mitchell said.

So imagine his surprise when he opened a $200 LP&L bill.

"My actual usage was $37.86 and the purchase power was $151.24," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the situation makes him feel helpless.

However, that helpless feeling turned to frustration and anger when we showed him a breakdown of what LP&L spent on different get-togethers in 2013, the same year they raised Lubbock rates.

The public power company spent $2,000 last June for an employee appreciation lunch, to reward all the hard work employees put in during a storm. They also held ten stability breakfasts in 2013, totaling another $2,000.

We sat down with LP&L's Matt Rose to get the lowdown on the expenditures.

"It's a budgeted expense and we look at it as something where we can say, we appreciate what you do," Rose said.

But that's not all. The employee appreciation dinner/Christmas party at Four Bar K cost $6,795.

"That holiday party is something that we do once a year. The purpose of that is to highlight and honor those employees who are out there every single day working the lines, working the outages," Rose said.

We obtained an e-mail sent by Matt Rose to LP&L's CEO Gary Zheng inviting him to "celebrate the hard work of all our dedicated employees" and to "get together and relax outside the work setting."

In the same e-mail, Rose reported that field service workers handled almost 3,800 service disconnects for non-payment.

However, compared to the 2012 holiday party, LP&L has scaled back.

"In years past, we've spent a dramatic amount above," said Rose.

LP&L's holiday shindig at MainEvent Entertainment cost rate payers nearly $30,000 for an evening of bowling, laser tag and glow golf right along with a backyard BBQ buffet.

"That's just shocking. And they're going to turn my electricity off over $200? How do I get a job with these guys," Mitchell asked.

Although they've made cuts, LP&L has no plans to stop the celebrations.

"We're not going to do anything lavish, we're not going to do anything over the top, we're going to balance running a very efficient and low cost operation, while also honoring our employees who go above and beyond the call of duty," Rose said.

But customers are quick to remind LP&L where this money comes from.

"It's Lubbock Power and Light. It's not your power and light. This is the residents of this town," Mitchell said.

LP&L maintains that they're being fiscally responsible. They insist the thousands they've spent on parties won't effect what rate customers are seeing on their bills.

For more on this story visit www.SandstormScholar.com

Copyright 2014 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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