Kingsport Power: We can do it cheaper

Hank Hayes • Updated Oct 10, 2017 at 9:20 AM

KINGSPORT – Kingsport Power claims it can provide electricity to the planned new $60 million Sullivan County high school at a cheaper rate than rival Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES).

BTES, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against Kingsport Power in Sullivan County Circuit Court seeking a condemnation order and declaratory judgment to provide service to the school.

Kingsport Power, doing business as AEP Appalachian Power (AEP), has filed a petition with the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC) seeking resolution of a boundary dispute brought about by placement of electric power distribution facilities by BTES on property intended for the new high school. BTES has filed a motion to dismiss or suspend the petition. The petition is expected to be considered by TPUC on October 23.

In mid-September, the Sullivan County Board of Education selected BTES as the preferred choice to provide electrical and Internet service to the school.

“(But) there’s an area of discussion that really never happened in public and probably should be discussed in public and that is the actual cost going forward to the school district … we think the school district is overlooking considerable savings on an ongoing basis,” Appalachian Power spokesman John Shepelwich noted during a meeting held at the Times-News.

Andy Shaffron, the company’s Kingsport district manager, said an analysis was done based upon a school the size of Sullivan North High School.

“When you look at that compared to what our costs are … you’re looking at about a 15 percent savings … around $60,000 a year,” Shaffron insisted.

“The fact the Sullivan County School Board favors BTES is, in our opinion, of no legal significance,” Shepelwich said in a follow up email. “We also continue to believe the annual (approximately $60,000 estimated) cost savings to the school district — and its taxpayers — which apparently was never considered in any decision made by the school district in public or private meetings is significant. It should be considered, certainly.”

AEP Appalachian Power, in a prepared release, said the school will be built on property that was designated by state statute in 1989 as part of the service area of Kingsport Power. An agreement regarding utility service area boundaries was signed that year by both Kingsport/AEP Appalachian and BTES, according to AEP.

The company has asked the TPUC to establish a “contested case” and to resolve the service boundary issue in AEP Appalachian Power’s favor.

In a response, BTES said it believes the school property is within an area that it has a right to serve.

AEP reported a BTES service distribution pole was placed on the proposed school property. AEP said it has been providing service to the property sold to Sullivan County for the new school since before the 1989 statute was enacted, through easements on the property, and as part of the Sullivan County franchise agreement.

A utility easement was granted to Kingsport Utilities, Kingsport Power’s predecessor company, in 1945 by J.E. and Verna Myers, according to the petition.

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