By: Sara Wittmeyer
Jimmy Shields has owned the hardware store in Linton for years, and before that it was his dad’s business. If you want to know what’s going on in town, Shield’s Hardware is a good place to start.
The buzz for the last year or so has been all about what people are paying for their electricity.
For only the third time in close to 30 years, a UDWI member is challenging Board President Jim Weimer’s spot on the Board of Directors.
His opponent is Todd Carpenter, an accountant who lived in Bloomington until last year and got his power from Duke Energy.
“When I moved I immediately started figuring out the rate per kilowatt – over 25 percent more,” Carpenter says. “And then after the holidays you start talking to some of your family members and you start hearing some of the bills they are paying, and I’m kind of flabbergasted.”
Carpenter owns an accounting firm, so naturally he started doing research and running different numbers.
“The numbers, when you have them in front of you, they say you should be cutting costs,” says Carpenter.
So Carpenter gathered the 50 signatures needed to get on the ballot to challenge Weimer.
“As the board we didn’t know that we were highest in the state. I mean we know – we know that our rate is high, so that’s a known,” Weimer says. “And nobody is trying to say we didn’t know that. We knew that.”
“That’s probably my fault, I’m not going to lay that on the board,” says CEO Brian Sparks, who’s worked in that position for the last decade of his 33 years with the company.
Over the last five years, tax records show that more than $15 million of excess earnings have been reported. When asked how these funds are kept to eventually return to ratepayers, Sparks declined to provide any details.
Carpenter says if he wins a spot on the board, one of the first things he’ll do is to increase transparency: open up the books to show people where the money is going and find ways to curb spending.
He’d start with his own board member compensation. Tax returns show the UDWI board is among the highest paid under Hoosier Energy. In 2015, Jim Weimer received just shy of $33,000 for an estimated 14 hours of work per week.