On Tuesday evening, the board of directors of BrightRidge voted unanimously to contract with Midsouth Utility Consultants for the system review and valuation, during which consultants will collect system data, inspect equipment and then estimate a fair market value for the system.
According to BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes, the $80,000 cost of the study will be shared, 70 percent to be paid by BrightRidge and 30 percent by Elizabethton.
Before the contract is finalized, the Elizabethton City Council must first approve its share of the funding.
Dykes, visiting Elizabethton leaders earlier this month, said merging the systems could help both of them mitigate challenges facing the public electric utility industry, including the rise of more energy efficient light bulbs and appliances and changes to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s rate structures.
In an interview with the Press, Dykes said a merger between the two systems could be feasible because of their close proximity and their history of cooperation.
In 2012, Elizabethton leaders considered selling the system to the Johnson City Power Board, BrightRidge’s predecessor, to avoid increasing electricity rates. The proposal ultimately fell by the wayside.
Once Midsouth provides its valuation report, an estimated timeline provided to BrightRidge board members Tuesday then shows public outreach meetings, followed by a required public referendum in Elizabethton and TVA’s approval of the merger.
The systems will also conduct an analysis of the impact on wholesale and retail rates and plan for the consolidated system during the yearlong process.