Dykes discusses consolidation of BrightRidge and Elizabethton Electric Department

John Thompson • Updated Nov 9, 2017 at 11:56 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton City Council agreed to study of the possible consolidation of BrightRidge and the Elizabethton Electric Department.

The action was taken Thursday night after BrightRidge Chief Executive Officer Jeff Dykes discussed consolidation.

“We are seeing businesses and agencies across the region look to mergers to lower costs for their customers by increasing efficiencies,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “This is really no different than the Mountain States/Wellmont merger creating Ballad Health or the creation of the NETREP economic partnership. To borrow the phrase, truly, we are stronger together.”

Dykes is certainly knowledgeable about both the Johnson City and Elizabethton systems. Before assuming the leadership of the Johnson City Power Board, Dykes served as general manager of the Elizabethton Electric System.

The two systems are near parity in terms of electric rates. BrightRidge is the 10th largest public power provider in the TVA system, with 78,000 customers. Elizabethton Electric has 26,068 customers.

“The feasibility study could present a unique opportunity for the citizens of Elizabethton to unlock untapped value in the utility,” Dykes said.

He also said the study would be a complete review of financial and technological aspects of the systems. It is anticipated that if approved, both electric systems would operate separately for some period after consolidation until the systems are brought into alignment.

Any consolidation agreement would require a majority vote of the BrightRidge Board of Directors, the Elizabethton City Council and the public in a referendum commissioned by the Elizabethton Electric System.

Thirteen percent of the BrightRidge budget after wholesale power cost is returned directly to the communities it serves through payments in lieu of property taxes. BrightRidge is the largest individual corporate property taxpayer in Johnson City and Washington County. These payments would continue with a consolidated system.

In other matters, the City Council voted 6-1 on the first reading of an ordinance to amend the city’s ordinance on beer permits and breweries. Sam Shipley cast the lone dissenting vote.

The change would allow the inclusion of breweries and craft breweries in the land-use regulations. The change also aligns minimum distance requirements for beer stores and liquor stores. That would change the distance requirements for beer stores from churches and schools from 220 feet from building to building to 100 feet from main entrance to main entrance.

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