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New Bern alderman hire consultant to explore selling energy assets

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NEW BERN, N.C. - The city of New Bern moves forward with an attempt to join with Duke Energy. The board of Alderman is set to spend $20,000 on a utilities consultant.

Whitfield Russell Associates will recommend whether the city should sell its energy assets to Duke Energy.

“Due diligence on our part is to make sure that we’re getting for the citizens of New Bern as good of a rate reduction as we can,” said New Bern’s Mayor Dana Outlaw.

The consultant is expected to present thoughts on the deal by the end of April. New Bern and 31 other cities partially own several nuclear and coal-burning power plants.

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When the New Bern mayor and aldermen voted to close session, Rhonda Taylor wasn't happy.

"If we're not all included, it seems you leave out a huge pool of knowledge that might be useful," Taylor, a New Bern resident, said. "If you're trying to garner support for something, I think that it's really difficult to do when everything's secret.

New Bern elected leaders and the CEO of ElectriCities met behind closed doors to discuss the company selling five power plants to Duke Energy Progress.

New Bern and 31 other cities are part of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) with ownership stakes in those plants.

ElectriCities oversees the NCEMPA so the company needs all 32 cities to approve the potential deal in order for it to move forward.

New Bern mayor Dana Outlaw supports the deal.

"I want cheaper electric rates for the citizens of New Bern and the subscribers to New Bern electricity," Mayor Outlaw said.

He also hopes Duke will take control of some of the almost $2 billion in debt the agency possesses.

But ElectriCities CEO Graham Edwards can't divulge how much debt Duke Energy will assume.

"I can't negotiate a deal in the public," Edwards said. "We have confidentiality agreements with Duke Energy Progress."

But it's that lack of public participation in the deal which worries Taylor.

"You're doing that all in secret where they have no say in it," Taylor said. "Then by the time it all comes down and is approved, they're out of office, and we're stuck with the bill.

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In New Bern, the Board of Aldermen met with Duke Energy Tuesday night to discuss the city selling some of its energy assets.

New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw supports the deal.

The city is considering selling its stakes in five nuclear and coal power plants. The plants are operated by the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency.
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