EES waiting for pole attachment fees from Sprint

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   With revenues down and preventing maintenance costs up, the Elizabethton Electric System anxiously awaits over $300,000 in fees due from Sprint telephone company.
   "We still have outstanding invoices to the telephone company for pole attachment fees," EES general manager, Phil Isaacs told the system's board of directors on Tuesday. "We've invoiced them twice."
   EES owns over 20,100 utility poles connecting electrical power lines around its service system. Telephone and telecommunications providers pay an attachment fee to EES to string their wires from each pole. Conversely, EES pays a fee to attach their power lines to approximately 2,500 utility poles owned by other utility entities, Talbert said.
   Sprint owes the system roughly $304,000 in attachment fees, according to Andi Talbert, EES director of finance. The system first invoiced Sprint in November for payment of the fees, she said.
   Talbert said local Sprint representatives had been cooperative in facilitating attachment fee payments, but the decision of when to pay did not rest with them.
   "They don't write the checks," she said.
   Isaacs chalked up the delay to corporate centralization of power from the local offices to the company's Charlotte, N.C. headquarters. He remained optimistic the payment would be made -- whenever the company's headquarters sent the check.
   "They'll pay us, they always do but it's been harder to do that," he said.
   Payment of the fees would be a welcomed infusion of cash as EES wades through the slow revenue season of spring. The system's April 2003 monthly report indicated a drop in system revenues due in large part to mild spring weather. Total operating revenues for the month exceeded $2.6 million -- a decline of 2.3 percent from April 2002. Maintenance expenses were $131,000 last month -- a 39 percent jump over April 2002 numbers.
   "We've had warmer weather, been more aggressive with our tree trimming and our depreciation costs are up," Talbert said.
   The system spent approximately $68,000 on tree trimming last month April 2003, representing an almost $30,000 rise compared to April 2002 numbers. Tree branches frequently played havoc with electrical lines and subsequently upped the system's maintenance spending if left unattended.