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Fayetteville PWC receives clean audit report in financial review

Utility’s MetroNet project expenses total more than $1.5 million


Fayetteville PWC on Wednesday received “a clean, unmodified opinion” on its annual audit report for fiscal year 2022.

Members of the Public Works Commission were presented with highlights of a financial review and audit report during their monthly meeting. Giving the presentation were Chief Financial Officer Rhonda Haskins and controller Rhonda Graham of PWC and Robert Bittner III, an accountant with PBMares LLC of Newport News, Virginia.

Bittner, in a reply to a question posed by Commissioner Wade Fowler, said PBMares conducts 50 to 60 audits a year for municipal and government entities and only 10% to 15% receive a clean opinion.

Bittner said there were no concerns that would raise red flags for the state’s Local Government Commission.

PWC has $1.6 million in assets, Bittner said.

The report noted that the local utility cut electricity rates in 2020 and has made no changes since then. PWC has used its electric rate stabilization fund to manage rising energy prices. The municipal-owned utility said it used $9.7 million from that fund to maintain its base rates.

In fiscal 2022, Fayetteville PWC contributed $15.8 million in lieu of paying taxes to the city.

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Over the past five years, PWC’s total contribution to the city’s general fund was $84.1 million. Each year, the utility provides more than $24 million to the city, PWC said.

The utility has incurred more than $1.5 million in expenses related to the MetroNet project. That Indiana-based company and the city are bringing 100% fiber-optic internet, television and phone services to businesses and residents in the Fayetteville region. It’s the first venture for MetroNet in North Carolina.

MetroNet has begun a two-year project to install nearly 1,000 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure throughout Fayetteville, Hope Mills and the rest of Cumberland County.

In terms of major capital expenditures in fiscal 2022, PWC lists these:

  • $21 million in rehabilitation and replacement of water and sewer lines because of aging infrastructure.
  • $10 million for utility installation in annexed areas.
  • $17.6 million for water and sewer system and plant improvements’
  • $15.2 million for electric system infrastructure replacement and improvements.
  • $9.2 million for upgrades at the Butler-Warner Generation Plant.
  • $2.5 million for utility relocations for an N.C. Department of Transportation project.

The largest expense for PWC is the power supply. That cost decreased from $148.3 million a year ago to $141.3 million, a reduction of 4.7%. Of that cost, $70 million is because of demand charges, which are during peak energy use.

“This is when we pay the most for the power we buy from Duke Energy,” Rhonda Graham told the commissioners. “PWC has implemented many things to reduce that demand charge including installing battery storage (deployed during peak hours) and time-of-use rates."

On Tuesday, PWC will move to its winter peak-use hours, which run from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

“Since 2019 when time-of-use rates were implemented, annual demand charges have dropped from $78 million in fiscal year 2019 to $70 million in fiscal year 2022,” PWC reported.

The utility has paid more than $7 million toward coal-ash cleanup expenses, and they continue to go down, according to PWC.

PWC says customers can expect the coal ash charge to decrease after 2024 and to be discontinued once Duke Energy has completed its coal ash cleanup.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com.

Fayetteville, utility, Public Works Commission, audit