July 24, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Electric bill a shocker

MEDINA — Last month’s $2,623 electric bill for the parking deck shocked city officials, who are investigating the unexpected high charge.

Service Director Nino Piccoli said Monday that he had estimated the deck’s utility costs to be $4,000 per year based on Ohio Edison’s prior estimated bills.

He said the first actual meter reading produced a $198 bill for October through November and the second bill, an estimate for November through December, was $259.

“It’s always been my experience that with utility estimating they usually go a little higher,” Piccoli said during a recent Finance Committee meeting of City Council members, so he took the higher estimate of $259, multiplied it by 12, and added a couple hundred “buffer” dollars to get the nearly $4,000 estimate for the deck’s annual utility costs.

The $5.1 million parking deck, located behind the Medina County Courthouse, officially opened on Nov. 30. Under the city’s contract with Medina County, the city pays the deck’s utility costs and splits additional maintenance, snow removal and annual inspection fees with the county.

Piccoli said if the bill is accurate, the city would be paying an estimated $1,000 per month for the deck. He noted the bill seems high because all the lights contain high-efficiency bulbs. The upper deck lights also operate on photocells, which are supposed to turn the lights off during the day.

Although the Finance Committee approved the $11,964 annual budget for the parking deck last week, Piccoli said it was a “starter budget” that would be subject to change.

Piccoli and City Engineer Patrick Patton are talking to Ohio Edison and the consultant who arranged the deck’s electric system to determine the accuracy of the bill.

“Hopefully it’s an error because it’s amazing that that could be the actual reading,” Councilman John Coyne, at-large, said during the Finance Committee meeting. “I would be very surprised if that was the cost.”

Coyne said if the high figure was the norm for the deck, steps would be taken to re-evaluate the deck’s lighting system to reduce costs.

“I think revisiting the number of lights, the timing of the lights, maybe half the lights would go off half the time, keeping enough for security purposes,” he said Monday.

Coyne, however, said he doubts the bill is accurate.

“I was just amazed at that number,” he said.

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at (330) 721-4050 or kbushinski@ohio.net.