International Civil Rights Museum In Dispute With Duke Energy

Civil Rights Museum, Duke Energy Bill Dispute

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It's a power struggle between The International Civil Rights Center & Museum and Duke Energy.  Documents filed over the past few weeks with the North Carolina Utilities Commission show the power company is billing the museum for an $18,224 deposit to go along with the regular electric bill.  If it's not paid, the  museum could risk losing power.

A complaint filed by Douglas Harris, the museum's attorney, argues the charge for a deposit is unfair.  The museum is calling on the Commission to find that there is no deposit required.

The complaint details an event on February 16, 2017, in which the museum's power was cut off from around 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.  The museum says on January 25, Duke Energy sent them a written notice saying if the bill was not caught up by February 16, 2017, the power would be disconnected.  The museum says it sent the check prior to that, but still had to deal with the loss of power; ultimately having to refund visitors because of the incident.

"At the time power was disconnected, we had paid everything that we owed to Duke Energy," explains museum CEO John Swaine.

Duke Energy filed a response to the complaint, saying the museum did not get their payment in before the February 15 deadline at 5 p.m.  The disconnection on February 16 allows the company to charge the museum for the deposit.  Duke Energy is also calling on the Commission to dismiss the complaint.

"We believe that we will be able to demonstrate that we followed our process and that we have followed the commissions rules and not only the letter, but the spirit of that," explains Mike Hughes, VP of Community Relations for Duke Energy. 

Swaine admits the museum has had payment issues in the past, but assures they're not a financial threat to Duke Energy.

"I think it felt a little intentional just to get a deposit and that's taking resources out of this operation that we do not have," Swaine tells.  "I don't have $18,224 to park over in the corner."

Swaine says other than this deposit, they're all squared away with the power company.  He could not provide WFMY News 2 with any documents to verify that. 

Duke Energy says it has worked with the museum in the past, helping with payment plans and energy efficiency.

"We have worked with this customer would recognize that we've done everything that we can in an effort to make the customer successful," Hughes explains. "There's no ulterior motive here. Disconnection is the last thing in the world we want." 

The next step is up to the North Carolina Utilities Commission.  In cases like this, it's typical for the Commission to have a hearing where both sides can provide evidence.

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