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There continues to be a very public and acrimonious spat between the management of Shelby Energy and some of its customers.
At the heart of these issues is a recently approved rate increase for the cooperative and what some of the members believe to be shoddy management, overspending and even danger. Whether all the complaints against Shelby Energy – many of them delineated in a letter to the editor last week – are viable is not clear. Each side has its opinions, and each believes strongly in what it says. A meeting last Thursday seemed to address many of those questions, with Shelby Energy President Debbie Martin standing and speaking directly to the issues, and customers appearing to appreciate her efforts if not her words. All if this is very sensitive because the questions go not only to dollars and cents and how they are spent but also to history, safety and continuing issues with the entire cooperative system throughout the state. Two years ago the state Public Service Commission required an audit of complaints about safety that produced stern words and strong directives of how Shelby Energy should respond. Yet no matter what is done, there continue to be questions and a demand for answers, sometimes among the complainants themselves. The recently published letter was “signed” by 11 families, but one withdrew his signature before publication and three of those families later said they had not signed the letter for publication. Such entanglements are not constructive. What is needed is a broad and sweeping audit by an independent investigator of every aspect of Shelby Energy. Each claim should be reviewed by this investigator, and a full, public report should be made to the PSC and to the members themselves. We suggest that Ms. Martin should reinforce transparency by requesting such an audit. The PSC should designate an investigator that is not part of its current structure and who is charged with providing a sweeping evaluation, much as a Congressional investigation might produce. Failing those steps, we don’t think this will be solved unless the courts are to become involved. We believe citizens have the right and responsibility to keep watch over each other’s best interests. We just want the conversation to move along and some sort of mutually acceptable conclusion be reached.