Richland City Council members on Tuesday seemed to be leaning in favor of delaying any increases in the city's electricity rates while staff members mull a new rate structure.
Energy Services Director Bob Hammond met with the council in a workshop to state his case for waiting -- namely because he wants time to figure out the true cost of providing electricity to Richland residents and businesses.
Hammond came to the council in October to say a rate increase was necessary to keep up with the cost of providing the service.
Otherwise, the electric utility would have been looking at a $5 million deficit for 2012.
He initially proposed rate increases of about 5 percent for residential customers and 10 percent for all other customers -- a plan which the council gave preliminary approval to in early January.
But later that month, Hammond asked the council to defer any further decisions on electricity rates and proposed to use existing cash from reserves to cover expenses not covered by existing rates while the Utility Advisory Committee and Hammond's department work on a new rate plan.
Some council members at a Jan. 24 workshop were concerned about using reserves and suggested doing a smaller increase in the short term while the city works out the long-term rate scheme.
But Hammond on Tuesday reassured council members that the city has enough money in reserves to allow some breathing room.
"As the professional person who gives you advice, I have no doubt in my mind we have enough money on the capital side," he said.
Hammond said he wants to hire extra help to look at the rates and bring a set of recommendations to the council for a workshop discussion in June.
No action was taken at Tuesday's meeting.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org