Unbearable electric rates hitting Southern Illinois customers

Unbearable electric rates hitting Southern Illinois customers
By: Arnold Wyrick
Ameren officials said it was coming, and they weren't kidding.  Not only did their proposed electric rate increase hit the 50 percent mark, but for some southern Illinois customers their rates doubled.
"It's going to pretty much put me out of business.  I can't raise my prices that much, because my customers incomes aren't going up that much," says Mary Rogers owner of Blue Bell Cafe, in Murphysboro, Illinois.

Rogers finds it hard to believe that Ameren CIPS needs to make that much money. "I understand everybody needs to make money, somehow.  And electricity is valuable.  But, something's got to give some where or you won't have any small businesses."

The rate hick is hitting every facet of business.  Leaving no one unaffected. "We're going to be looking at staying with equipment that we'd normally try to replace.  But, we're just going to have to make due with it a little bit longer," says Jeff McDaniel administrator at Oak Grove Rehab & Skilled Care center in Carbondale, Illinois.

"It's going to have a huge impact on us, 60-to-70 percent of our residents are on a fixed income.  They're using financial aide from the state.  That rate isn't going to compensate us, because now we're paying higher electric bills."

McDaniel's says they're just going to have to cutback where they can. "It might mean no pay raises for our staff, or changing out all the fluorescent ballast in the lights.  Shutting things off isn't an option, we're a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day a week operation."

"And we're going to have to dig deep into our own pockets every month to pay the bills.  It's kind of upsetting that municipalities can 'join together' to form a consortium for lower rates, and we're just stuck with carrying that whole bill increase on our backs," McDaniel said.
Illinois' legislators are in session, in Springfield at this time.  But there's been little talk from the General Assembly about doing anything to set a rate freeze on electric rates.