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Lodi crackdown on electricity thieves nets city $29,000

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Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:18 am, Thu Jul 28, 2011.

During the past 10 months, Lodi Electric Utility employees have found new, creative ways to make sure the power stays off after the city pulls the plug.

Residents who have had their power shut off for not paying their bills have found ways to steal electricity. Some run extension cords to a neighbor’s house while others tamper with the meter box or electrical panel to bypass the shut-off measures.

The utility is now cracking down on the thieves, and the efforts have resulted in residents paying close to $29,000 to make accounts current.

Without enforcement, the Lodi Electric Utility would most likely have never recuperated those costs, and they would be distributed to all of Lodi’s customers, said Rob Lechner, customer service and programs manager.

“This is the part that should make 99.9 percent of our ratepayers feel pretty good,” Lechner said.

The utility started a pilot program last fall to start recapturing costs from residents who bypass the meter after their power is shut off.

Starting July 1, the utility continued to step up enforcement by regularly checking any customer who has their meter sealed for non-payment.

As of Monday, two employees had driven by 185 utility customers this month and found 10 had their power back on. Of those, two came in to pay the next day after their power was shut off again.

“We are going to go after people who are violating city policy and think that energy is free. It is not,” Lechner said.

The utility writes off about $500,000 a year, mostly from unpaid electric bills. But some of that cost also comes from electricity theft, he said.

Aside from the financial incentive to go after the thieves, the utility is also hoping to prevent any injuries or fires.

“It is really, really dangerous stuff. Unless you are a trained professional, you shouldn’t be messing with electricity, especially a panel or meter, because if you slip up, it might be your last,” he said.

One full-time and one part-time employee are spending about 40 percent of their time finding those who steal electricity, Lechner said. They often go out during random hours to see if lights or other devices are on.

When someone doesn’t pay, Lechner said the city is willing to work with them and offers a lengthy grace period before shutting off the electricity.

The city will then seal the meter by putting a locking ring in place that also disables the meter to keep it from spinning. People often will destroy the ring or smash the meter.

If someone bypasses it, then the city will remove the meter and place a metal plate over the socket. The final step is for the utility to cut the line servicing the home, which will make it significantly more expensive to turn the power back on.

Residents who keep turning the power back on could also be cited or prosecuted, Lechner said. The community improvement division will issue the citations, and the city attorney’s office will then prosecute them. The penalties include a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail plus court costs.

The utility plans to increase the enforcement in the future to continue to recoup utility costs, Lechner said.

“We all lose when this happens. When people are stealing from us, it doesn’t help the average ratepayer. ... If we turned the other cheek, we would be remiss in our responsibilities,” he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/city_buzz.

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16 comments:

  • Jerry Bransom posted at 9:48 am on Sun, Jul 31, 2011.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 363

    Ted, I have no idea what you are saying in that long-winded speech but I commend you on your spelling. The ways to keep costs down have nothing to do with the economy and its ups and downs. That was to be the whole point - insulating us against the economy. Instead, we get more people on the unnecessary payroll. It is just Government Business as Usual.
    Group deciding this, "Why accept the efficiency of larger utility companies when we can make more money this way? Of course more taxes are needed to support it. But we can hide those taxes as bonds, fees and surcharges. Besides, the citizens will believe us, they are all ignorant anyway." Tu Capisci, Ted?

     
  • Cyndi Backman posted at 10:29 pm on Sat, Jul 30, 2011.

    Cyndi Backman Posts: 5

    My Old landlord used system illegally all the time! He broke into box... I called city and complained.. no action.. his electrical system is a fire waiting to happen.....he would flip on city of lodi switches on his own ...he has 3 properties in same area...watched him do it... even had a fire from his lack of knowledge one day...loser land lord thinks he is above law

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 10:08 pm on Sat, Jul 30, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Josh, you have a computer, don't you? Use it. The info and data are all there some on COL records, Stockton Record archives, Sentinel archives, Highbeam research and several websites that focus on backdoor deals and hard to find websites that are taken down for the public, but in archives of business and finance websites that focus on corruption. If you're not too cheap or squeamish to learn the truth, subscribe to one or two of those websites and merely type in a name and either Lodi or corruption, or both, and see the results for yourself. I gather new data each week for my external hard drive and that's where some of my facts come from, others from people who have been cheated or bullied by your good ol" boys and girls and some even from other closer, but distant family members who can't stomach their own dastardly kin. So pony up and get on that computer if you want to get to the bottom of this? And maybe you could add some startling facts to these blogs instead of acting like a three year old and always asking questions, why, why, why, who, who, who, when, when, when, how,how, how, on and on and on like most very young developing children do.

     
  • Josh Morgan posted at 11:18 am on Sat, Jul 30, 2011.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Doug said: "my memory of the good ol' boys system that is now slowly crumbling in livable, lovable Lodi."

    Doug, could you be a little more specific. Who are these people......where do they own property on the east side......what downtown buildings are you talking about and who owns them? I want to get to the bottom this this!

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 10:54 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Wouldn't that be our golden, olden longtime ex-police chief, city councilman, NCPA director wannabe and now chairman of the board of the Northern California Power Assn. "family" the honorable Larry Hansen, one of the three amigos that is also burbening us with the cost of the unnecessary and unneeded water treatment plant that will cost us around $200 million that was supposed to be paid for by developers fees, such as those at Reynolds Ranch, developed by none other than DGP, Skinner Ranch, or one of the other many names supposedly used by Dale Gillespie, the developer of Reynolds Ranch and rumored good friend of the infamous three amigos? Thank you Jerry Branson for refreshing my memory of the good ol' boys system that is now slowly crumbling in livable, lovable Lodi. Some being cash poor with land, property and homes worth half value, they are unable to borrow money on property and their now devalued homes and some have been rumored to sought out "special" deals from wealthy Stockton interests to keep themselves and their extreme lifestyles afloat. The only worthwhile asset many have left is their slumhousing on the eastside and worthless dilapidated, ready to burn down anyday downtown buildings, which are also slowly deteriorating away and losing more value each month.

     
  • Ted Lauchland posted at 10:43 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Mr. Bransom , I couldn't say that Lodi was a thief in that in theory being more in control of costs to produce electricity should stabilize rates in a more stable economy where predictions are reliable. Being able to purchase in bulk in advance normally would secure that stability. I am a PG&E customer and see attempts to stabilize appearances by give and take to even out billing. I also see commercial accounts played with . The grass is always greener on the other side.Coulda shoulda woulda goes nowhere. You have to go with what you believe at that moment and stick with it or change when the opportunity arises. Proven thieves however are to be held accountable . If they stole your generator at your home and you knew who did it would you not go after them? Or would you just let the insurance company pay you and then they would go after them. If you did not tell them your information about the identity you would be commiting fraud and cost the rest of us insurance rate payers more in premium to make up for your fraud. If you bought another generator because yours needed unforseen breakdown costs you have now doubled the costs involved. Price of gas has doubled in one year - how about that. How much weight do you want to put on promises promises. Just try to build a house and see where your original estimates go. Do I know all the detail ? - Nope. Not worried about it . Solar energy is what you're supposed to be doing anyway . Then the thieves have something new to steal. - Ha! It is already happening.

     
  • Jerry Bransom posted at 9:54 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 363

    Aren't the real thieves the ones that told us our Rate would stabilize if we stopped purchasing Power from PG&E and went with Lodi??

     
  • Ted Lauchland posted at 5:54 pm on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Holding criminals accountable for what they do is no doubt rarely cost effective for the infractiion especially if it involves jail time and court costs. However the cost of not countering the illegal activity could easily multiply itself into a company being run right out business or a neighborhood over run by gangs .Why have any laws at all if it costs too much to enforce to protect you and me. Wild Wild West all over again. Someone has to pay for the violation and I would just as soon it be the thief . It's nice to at least get some of it back while stemming the illegal activity at the same time. Condoning theft is never justifiable at any cost

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 8:10 am on Fri, Jul 29, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Are these 2 employees connected with or related to city hall, NCPA "family" or Lodi electric employees?

     
  • Bob Kempf posted at 10:03 pm on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Bob Kempf Posts: 41

    The article said they spend about 40% of they're time looking for theft....Seems like a lot to me. Heck it would be cheaper to let it go and write it off. JMO

    BOB

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 6:52 pm on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Very good point Mr. Smith, you're probably right.

     
  • Bob Smith posted at 2:16 pm on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Bob Smith Posts: 128

    Mr. Chaney, you make it sound as if two employees were paid 75K for the sole purpose of checking these houses. Two people could quite possibly check those 185 houses in 40 hours or less if that was their only job. Since you want to assume things, lets also assume that they were doing this while on their normal rounds to supply/remove power from new or discontinuing customers.
    Lodi's not that big. "Joe, while you're on 123 Elm St connecting their service, swing by 174 Elm St to see if their power is still shut off."
    But even if they devoted a straight 40 hours to check these houses, at 75K per year that's only about 1500 bucks.
    On the other hand, if you have evidence that shows that two employees were hired at 75K solely for the purpose of looking for people stealing power, I'd be more than happy to see that evidence.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 12:29 pm on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    If that's a good deal to you, you can stay in that 99.9%, Mr. Smith. And point out the conspiracy to me? There are very few real Lodians that are anything but pleased with Lodi electric and the good ol' boys who take their orders and march in step for fear of losing their cush jobs.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 12:24 pm on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Mr. Smith, how do you justify assumedly at least 75K, and probably added benefits, I'd say closer to around 100K, for two employees to save 29K for LEUD, the one successful Lodi department that is profitable and pays most of the bills for the city? Parks are dirty, pools are closing, employees are still being laid off or cut back, and the free spenders at LEUD under Ms. Kirkle and the NCPA board chairman, none other than Larry Hansen, help create this job that one qualified licensed electrician could handly by themselves? LEUD needs to rethink this wasteful strategy and live within their own means, like other departments are required to do. I see the LEUD is writing off the only overseer they have that checks and approves the numbers for the monthly ECA, cost adjustment, That raises residential rates higher most months of the year in Lodi. The new overseerss will be, I believe, Ms. Kirkle, of the NCPA "family, and none other than the city manager. Now if that won't be the wolf guarding the henhouse, huh? Council will vote to disband the monitoring group and appoint these two to make sure the numbers are right? WOW, welcome to 1950 livable, lovable Lodi.

     
  • Bob Smith posted at 9:25 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Bob Smith Posts: 128

    According the article, "This is the part that should make 99.9 percent of our ratepayers feel pretty good,”

    Doug is the .1 percent. Always looking for a conspiracy, always thinking that anything good in this town is directly related to the GOB's lining their pockets.

     
  • Doug Chaney posted at 8:30 am on Thu, Jul 28, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    OK, here's another conspiracy theory for you? It says two LEUD employees have recouped $29,000 in electric fees over the past 10 months from those who have stolen electricity? Are these "random hours" on overtime early in the morning and after dark in the evening? Who are these two "lucky" employees? Well-connected or even related to tthose in the Lodi NCPA "family" or the upper echelon of Lodi electric? I'm assuming that these two positions alone pay $75,000 annually, and maybe benefits, so what justifies these job titles other than creating just another job for a friend or relative at the free spending LEUD, who accounts to no one? Why should residential ratepaayers in LEUD be one of the highest ratepayers in the nation, aabout six cents higher per kwh than some cities? The ends doesn't justify the means. Cut the waste, now?

     

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