MID considers customer ATMs, solar rebates, storage

07/21/2014 6:06 PM

07/21/2014 10:12 PM

Special ATMs would make it easier for people to pay their Modesto Irrigation District bills, says a proposal going before MID leaders Tuesday morning.

The MID board also will discuss how to avoid next year a public relations snafu that left dozens of would-be solar customers in the lurch a couple of months ago.

Long lines of people waiting to pay bills are common at the downtown Modesto office of MID, which also has satellite centers in east Modesto, west Modesto, Riverbank and Waterford. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, however, for the money to reach the main office, resulting in service delays. About 13 percent of electricity customers prefer paying in person, a report says.

Scattered kiosks would cost the district $250 per month each, plus 60 cents charged to customers for each transaction. The latter would be less than the current 80-cent fee, and automated teller machines would reduce long waits in line, says a report that estimates MID could save up to $28,000 per month.

If board members agree Tuesday morning to a contract with US Payments, the company would provide about three kiosks in places yet to be determined.

In other action, the board will hear a staff recommendation to cut in half rebate amounts offered to convince electricity customers to install solar energy panels. That could allow twice as many people to participate in the popular program, the reasoning goes.

Complaints flooded MID when officials abruptly shut down this year’s solar rebates upon running out of money after only four months. The district reopened the application window for one week to accommodate 160 customers at a cost of about $1 million in addition to the $4.2 million already spoken for.

The board Tuesday will hear a staff recommendation to spend about the same amount next year on solar rebates.

The agenda also features a presentation on MID’s relationship with Primus Power, a company developing special batteries to store electricity on a scale that someday could help the district and its customers. Primus wants to start a pilot project by spring at an MID power plant in Ripon.

Additionally, the MID board will consider covering the $135,000 cost of moving some power poles in Waterford. Its city leaders contend that MID should pay, while the district thinks it’s the city’s responsibility.

A proposed financing deal is structured as a zero-percent loan from MID to Waterford, due in three years.

Tuesday’s MID board meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the board chamber at 1231 11th St., Modesto. For details, see www.mid.org/about/board/agenda/072214.pdf.

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