Electric rate problems causing headaches

Carson City resident Ken Jeter says the power company overcharged him hundreds of dollars. Photo by Jim Scripps

Carson City resident Ken Jeter says the power company overcharged him hundreds of dollars. Photo by Jim Scripps

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Carson City resident Ken Jeter got a jolt earlier this year when he opened his electric bill and learned he owed Sierra Pacific Power $767.

At a time when power bills have jumped to unprecedented highs, Jeter expected to see an increase, but $767 seemed excessive.

"I live in a three-bedroom Victorian that's 1,500 square feet," Jeter said this week. "The people who lived there before used nothing but electric heat and their bills averaged something like $60-$120 a month. We have a gas heater -- our bills shouldn't be this high."

Jeter said he complained to the company, and subsequently had his bill reduced to $301, still high for the amount of electricity used by Jeter's family of four. For the second time, a technician came to the house on North Nevada Street and studied the meter to ensure it was accurately reading the power use.

"The meter tech said we've used a quarter of the power that we are being charged for," Jeter said. Another correction brought the bill down to $195, an amount that Jeter could live with.

But Jeter, a professional mover, soon got another shock.

He received retroactive bills for the months of November and December in amounts of $322 and $312. He was originally charged $49 and $120 for the two months.

Now Sierra Pacific Power is asking Jeter to make up for $959.65 in underpayment for four months of power.

"I think they are trying to bear down on my family because I complained," he said. "It seems awfully coincidental that they are billing me retroactively when I complain.

"Monthly bills in the $300s is ridiculous. There is no way we use that much power."

Karl Walquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Resources, parent company of the Northern Nevada electric utility, said he cannot comment directly on the Jeters' account because it is confidential information, but said that the company has procedures in place, including energy audits, to iron out billing wrinkles.

A new billing system installed last year had been malfunctioning, but Walquist said to his knowledge the problems have long since been fixed.

"We do everything we can to work with the customers," he said.

Jeter has filed a formal complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, seeking relief. He said it will likely be a few weeks before the matter is resolved.


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