During the city of Winston-Salem’s public works committee meeting on May 14, city leaders and staff talked about changes to the city’s electricity consumption, the output from a hydroponic greenhouse and new rules on how residents can garden with native plants.

Electricity changes

On Jan. 15, electric monopoly Duke Energy hiked up its prices statewide which is impacting customers both at the municipal level and individual consumer level.

As for the city of Winston-Salem, it is buckling up for a hike in electricity prices. Last year, the city paid $10 million in total electric costs. This year, costs are projected to clock in at nearly $12 million. Next year, they’re expected to increase even more to nearly $14 million. By 2027, they’ll be $15 million.

These surging prices demonstrate the statewide increase implemented this year by Duke Energy, which justified the hike as a means to “make the electric grid more resistant to outages and enable faster power restoration,” per the company’s January press release. Still, some changes can help the city decrease their energy consumption. 

The city plans on switching over to LEDs for street lighting during the next budget cycle, a move that is projected to bring their energy consumption down from around 116.6 million kWh (kilowatt-hours) to around 106.5 million kWh.

Last year, city councilmembers approved a $607.8 million budget — funding for that is collected from residents in the form of property tax. The property tax rate went up by 2.5 cents last year.

In addition to increased property taxes, individual customers are facing their own price increases for electricity. Rates for a typical residential Duke customer using 1,000 kWh per month increased on Jan. 15 by $10.04, raising monthly costs from $130.29 to $140.33. On top of that, the monthly rate will increase by $4 each year for the next two years, reaching $148.62 by January 2026.

Fighting food insecurity

The Kimberly Park hydroponic greenhouse, which received some flack from community activists due to its more than $2 million price tag, is making headway on bringing food to families in need.

During the first quarter of this year, the farm produced 1,998 pounds of food — more than $10,300 worth — and planted more than 16,000 seeds; this helps feed 445 families per week. The farm is currently managed by nonprofit organization Help Our People Eat.

Also, the city is creating a food resilience planning document and starting a conversation around food deserts, food hazards, what to do in a food shortage emergency, and more. 

Join the conversation by taking the survey or attending an event:

  • June 14 at 4 p.m. at Hanes Hosiery Community Center, 501 Reynolds Blvd
  • June 20 at 12 p.m. at Rupert Bell Neighborhood Center, 1501 Mt Zion Pl
  • June 26 at 7 p.m. at Sprague Street Park Community Center, 1350 E Sprague St
  • July 11 at 6 p.m. at City Hall Committee Room, 101 North Main Street Room 239
  • July 15 at 5:30 p.m. over Zoom

Natural landscapes

In March, city leaders approved an ordinance that will allow residents to create natural landscape areas in their yards using native and pollinator-friendly plants. Natural areas are permitted five feet back from the property edge. Volunteers will help plant and upkeep a demonstration garden in Second Street Park to show residents what a “well-kept” natural landscape could look like, per the city’s Sustainability Director Dr. Shaleen Miller. A grant from Forsyth Audubon Society will invest $3,500 in the demonstration garden.

In 2018, the city joined forces with Bee City USA. Washington and Reynolds Parks have two Bee City pollinator beds each. There are nearly 3.6 million square feet of habitat spaces such as meadows and gardens across the city. By next spring, the flowers for the Happy Hill meadow project should be in bloom.

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