by Eric Ginsburg

Items from across the Triad and beyond

Duke Energy under fire for tree cuts, rates

Greensboro City Council has taken up a call to stop tree trimming around power lines. Residents in three neighborhoods, especially Westerwood, argued that the cuts were so severe that they constituted blight. A letter signed by Mayor Robbie Perkins and council members Dianne Bellamy-Small, Zack Matheny and Nancy Hoffmann requested that Duke Energy “suspend all line maintenance activity” for the next three months. Fisher Park residents raised the same concerns in February.

“This time allows us to identify ways to better collaborate and coordinate the execution of this important and needed work,” the letter says. “Most importantly, this suspension provides the community with an opportunity to regroup and reset from the current stress and pressure of Duke Energy’s aggressive stance to push this operation forward, without properly or fully considering or respecting, the stated desires and needs of Greensboro residents.”

When interviewed about the Fisher Park cuts earlier this year, Matheny said he understood the residents’ frustrations but saw little alternative. He argued that more frequent cuts — which wouldn’t be as extreme — would be significantly more expensive.

Duke Energy was also criticized by a coalition of groups around the state, including AARP North Carolina, for plans to raise utility rates on people who can’t afford higher energy bills. The coalition announced a campaign to pressure the state’s utilities commission to ask Duke to “adopt a responsible plan to meet the state’s future energy needs without putting unfair burdens on residential consumers, small businesses and municipalities.”

Occupy Greensboro and other local residents have spoken out against previous Duke Energy rate hikes for the same reasons.

Greensboro College’s accreditation probation extended for a year

The small Methodist-affiliated school near downtown Greensboro will remain on accreditation probation for a second year, Greensboro College said in a press release. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges extended the college’s probation due to a history of financial trouble, but school President Lawrence Czarda said the decision was not a surprise.

Czarda cited the college’s progress over the last year as the reason Greensboro College didn’t lose its accreditation, but he said the institution still needs to work towards “financial sustainability.” The college plans to sell a surplus piece of real estate, has signed an agreement to refinance its debt and has seen increased enrollment, though not as fast as had been hoped.