Yampa Valley Electric Association refunds in the mail

The envelope from the electric company usually means one thing -- time to pay up.

But the bright pink envelopes that have been showing up in mailboxes throughout the region this week aren't bills; they're refund checks from the Yampa Valley Electric Association.

More than 22,000 YVEA customers received checks this week as part of the association's consumer credits program.

Justin Gallegos of Craig got his $16 check in the mail this week from YVEA.

"It would be nice if the gas company did the same thing," he said.

Gallegos received a check last year for $5, but he said he would rather the company lower prices in the winter than give out small refunds.

YVEA spokesman Jim Chappell said the association could credit the refunds to members' accounts, but people wouldn't notice the refunds as much if they did that.

"We want people to realize you are a member of a cooperative and we give our money back to our stakeholders," he said.

Chappell said that because the association is not for profit, any money earned over the cost of service can be given back to the customers each year.

"We pay back based on the financial condition of the association," Chappell said.

This year's refunds, which total about $1.8 million, will go to people who were members of the association in 1992.

An additional $812,000 will go to customers who have been members of the association since 2003. The $812,000 is from a settlement the association reached with energy provider Xcel Energy for past billing errors and a rate decrease.

Chappell said people who were members in 1992 should get an average of $55 back.

The refunds are based on the amount of electricity used, meaning big commercial customers, such as mines and the ski resort, will receive much bigger refunds than residential customers.

Some members received checks for as little as $1, Chappell said. If the refund was for less than a dollar, it rolls over to future refunds.

Chappell said customers are often unsure about why they got the check.

"We get calls all the time," he said.

Most of the confusion, Chappell said, comes from the Steamboat Springs end of the valley where more of the customers are new.

"A lot more people (in Craig) have been getting (refunds) for years," Chappell said.

Anyone who hasn't received a refund is encouraged to contact YVEA.

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