EPB workers rake it in

EPB workers rake it in

August 5th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Having trouble paying your EPB electric bill?

Well, EPB employees aren't. And that's a big reason why your electricity costs are so high.

Chattanooga's government-owned electric company showers its employees with salaries that many hard-working Chattanoogans could only dream of.

According to public records compiled on this paper's "Right2Know" website, EPB paid 52 of its 552 employees more than $100,000 a year in 2011.

By comparison, the City of Chattanooga, which has nearly four times more employees, has only 19 employees who earn more than $100,000 annually.

That fact should outrage city employees. After all, the city ultimately owns EPB, and if the electricity monopoly loses money or defaults on the nearly $400 million in bonds it is currently paying down, tax dollars will be used to bail out the utility company -- likely resulting in a city budget shortfall and, ultimately, layoffs to city employees.

As the mayor of Chattanooga, Ron Littlefield pulled in $146,607 last year. Six EPB employees made more than that, led by EPB President Harold DePriest with a salary of $206,086.

Other EPB employees cashing big paychecks courtesy of electric and fiber customers in 2011 include:

• Greg Eaves, chief financial officer -- $187,096

• David Wade, chief operating officer -- $186,848

• Steve Clark, vice president of strategic systems -- $158,829

• Jim Ingraham, vice president of strategic research -- $143,811

• Danna Bailey, vice president of corporate communications -- $134,989

• Coleman Keane, director of fiber technologies -- $131,453

EPB's head lobbyist, Diana Bullock, makes $145,829 annually -- largely to convince federal, state and local governments to pour more tax dollars into EPB projects.

Katie Espeseth, who runs EPB's taxpayer-subsidized fiber optics scheme, snagged $136,677 in 2011. The senior vice president of customer relations, Kathy Burns, certainly has a reason to be kind to EPB customers. They funded her $148,928 salary in 2011.

The average Chattanooga resident annually earns $23,434, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The average salaried EPB employee, however, rakes in more than two and a half times that much -- $63,387 a year.

Out of EPB's 552 salaried employees in 2011, not a single one made less than the average Chattanoogan last year.

Naturally, those exorbitant salaries are passed right on to the customer.

EPB estimates their average August residential electric bill will top $146. Subsidizing EPB employees' hefty paychecks makes up a considerable chunk of that cost.

Fiber customers who fork out their hard-earned cash for EPB's telephone, cable and Internet offerings also pay higher costs for those services so EPB bigwigs can live high on the hog.

In this time of economic hardship, many families are struggling just to keep their power turned on. It's outrageous that so many of the dollars that Chattanooga-area residents fork over to EPB ultimately end up paying the bloated salaries of the utility provider's workers.