Electricity vendor tells state to pay up
By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Another vendor says it may have to cut off service to the state of Illinois because the state’s inability to pay its bills is threatening the vendor’s ability to continue doing business.
In a disconnection warning letter dated Oct. 29, Southwestern Electric Cooperative Inc. told the state it is behind on its accounts.
“As a not-for-profit utility, Southwestern … relies on its members to pay their bill so we, in turn, can pay our bills and provide power to 22,000 homes, hospitals, schools, businesses and industries throughout the state of Illinois,” cooperative CEO Kerry Sloan wrote in the letter, a copy of which was posted Thursday on the Capitol Fax blog site.
“Your violation of our service agreement compromises our ability to provide that service and jeopardized the welfare of our membership and the general public,” Sloan wrote.
The letter says Southwestern has already exceeded its policies for disconnection for lack of payment and will begin disconnections if it does not receive payment by Dec. 1.
Southwestern spokesman Joe Richardson said he could not reveal details of the state’s accounts because Southwestern treats the state as it would any member of the cooperative and provides the same account privacy as it would to an individual.
Spokespeople for the state agencies said they would try to gather information on the state’s accounts with Southwestern and get back to Illinois News Network, but most had not as of late Thursday afternoon.
An IDNR spokesman said that department has accounts with Southwestern for Horseshoe Lake State Park, Carlyle Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area and Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area. As of Nov. 1, the IDNR bill was at roughly $6,300.
The state’s transparency and accountability portal showed payments to Southwestern in fiscal year 2015 for electrical service for the Illinois Department of Transportation, about $175,000; Department of Natural Resources, about $18,200; Central Management Services, about $4,200; and Department of Corrections, about $260.
In Springfield, the state now owes City Water, Light and Power about $2.9 million for two accounts for the Capitol complex, according to the utility. CWLP says that while disconnect notices are being sent, it has no plans to cut off the Capitol.
Illinois is in its fifth month of fiscal year 2016 without a budget as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who have supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly remain at impasse.
Although many routine bills are going unpaid for lack of spending authority, the state is reportedly spending at a clip to put it $4 billion to $5 billion into the red for the fiscal year as it pays for primary and secondary education, programs it is obligated to fund by way of consent decrees and court orders, and spending mandated in continuing appropriations.
Meanwhile, a company that provides substance abuse and related counseling at state prisons said it’s pulled the plugs on three contracts valued at about $1 million.
The Wells Center has terminated counseling contracts at the Logan Correctional Center, Dixon Springs Impact Incarceration Program and Du Quoin Impact Incarceration Program, said the center’s executive director, Bruce Carter.
The center has retained one contract at Logan and several with the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, as those are funded by either federal money or state funds paid out by way of consent decree, Carter said.
Another vendor, Westcare, is providing the services in the contracts surrendered by Wells Center, an IDOC spokeswoman said.
The Wells Center has been doing business with the state since 1991 and will continue to, but it has to pay particular attention to how any contract is funded simply because the center cannot support services with long-delayed payments and no certainty about when those payments might arrive, Carter said.
The lack of payment is pushing the Wells Center to the edge, he said.
“Because of delayed payments and cutbacks we’ve had to make, it would not take much for us to go out of business now,” Carter said.