Gulf Power has a disaster fund to pay for the thousands of out-of-state linemen and extra equipment needed to rebuild Bay County’s electrical system after Hurricane Michael.
But whether that fund can cover the whole recovery cost isn’t yet known.
“None of that has been thought about yet,” Jeff Rogers, spokesman for Gulf Power, said of the total cost to restore electricity.”We’ve been focused only on restoration … but over the next couple of weeks we’ll get more information.”
Rogers said the company has a disaster fund set up with the state of Florida to pay for situations like the hurricane, which knocked out power in the county three weeks ago. Money for the fund comes from portions of customers’ electricity bills, Rogers said.
“If there isn’t enough in the fund, we may go to the state to ask for more,” Rogers said.
Rogers said power companies across the country have similar disaster funds that pay for visiting repair crews and equipment.
“It’s always the host company that pays for it,” Rogers said of disaster recovery. “Like when we travel, the host company picks up the tab.”
Robert Barnes, a Panama City native who now lives in Vernon, said he saw people on the social media site Facebook complaining about Gulf Power but praising visiting crews. Thinking that Gulf Power was being unfairly criticized, Barnes asked The News Herald through its Bay Asked, We Answered series: “Who pays for all of the out-of-state power company crews, equipment and supplies?”
“I wanted to get some factual information out there about what they’ve done,” Barnes said about Gulf Power. “They’ve done a hell of a job getting things back up and running.”
Rogers said that to date, power was restored to almost everyone in the county who can receive electricity. Still, there’s an estimated 15,000 customers whose homes and buildings are too damaged to accept power, he said.
“There’s destroyed equipment, it’s all over … mostly in the hardest hit areas,” Rogers said. “But, we’ve got people getting repairs every day.”
Rogers noted that with the major restoration complete, most of the visiting linemen had left the county. More than 7,000 people from power companies across the country were in the county at the peak of the repair effort.
“We’ve probably got about 1,500 now,” Rogers said. “Now we’re in the cleanup phase, making sure repairs were done correctly and checking for possible weak points.”
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