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Duke Energy didn't charge for baseball stadium lighting since 1995

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
For years, the anonymous letter writer known as Common Sense complained about all the lights at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium in Kannpolis.
The writer was critical of county spending, noting the stadium’s parking lot was lit as bright as day in the middle of the winter and the middle of night, and questioned who was paying and how much it was costing.
Turns out, no one was paying.
But the bill has arrived.
Duke Energy discovered it failed to bill the county $261,265 for the 152 months (12.5 years) of lighting the parking lot since 1995, when the the stadium opened off Lane Street in Kannapolis.
Randy Welch, Salisbury district executive with Duke Energy, said Duke installed the lights with the decorative fixtures that are generally covered by a monthly contract to cover the capital investment of the fixtures, the installation, energy usage and maintenance of the lights. Welch noted that for some reason, a contract was never signed and no billing was established.
The error was discovered in November 2007 and brought to the attention of Bill Cowan, who was county manager at the time. Cowan asked for time to resolve the issue.
In his memo to current County Manager Gary Page, Welch said Duke is willing to settle the bill for $61,878 in a lump sum, the amount apparently set by a state three-year statute of limitation.
Welch noted Duke Energy will lose approximately $199,368 for the the period. “It is unfortunate the billing was not set up promptly for both parties in 1995.”
He expressed his appreciation for the county’s willingness to resolve the issue. Duke is also asking the county to sign a seven-year contract to pay $1,719 per month.
Welch noted the county has the option to pay the $61,878 and have the lighting removed immediately.
Page is recommending the payment be taken from the Regional Sports Authority account where stadium lease payments have been channeled. For almost a decade, those funds were left untouched. But in 2004, Rowan County commissioners opted to dip into the fund to offset the county’s maintenance and other spending at the facility.
Although owned jointly by Kannapolis and Rowan County, Kannapolis opted out of operating the facility and paying any of the costs for more than a decade.
In his memo, Welch also said Duke Energy would be willing to work with the county on identifying meters and accounts for the stadium portion of the property.
County officials have raised issues regarding the year-round utility bills at the stadium, which isn’t used in the off-season.
The Rowan County commissioners will discuss payment of the bill and other issues related to Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium at their meeting at 4 p.m. Monday.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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