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Military families could get break on power, gas bills

Members of the 345th and 815th Airlift Squadrons return from deployment to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi in 2011.
Members of the 345th and 815th Airlift Squadrons return from deployment to Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi in 2011. Sun Herald

The state’s Public Service Commission wants electrical power and natural gas companies to give military families a break when the head of household is deployed.

PSC Chairman Brandon Presley proposed the idea of discounted bills Tuesday and the PSC’s two other members agreed.

“If fast-food restaurants can give members of our Armed Forces a discount on a cup of coffee or a meal, surely our public utility monopolies can give a discount to families with a deployed family member,” Presley said.

“Deployments are a burden on families and this could help ease the burden, even if it’s just a small discount.”

The commission staff will come up with a recommendation to present at its March meeting, Presley said.

It’s unclear how many families at any given time could receive a discount. But it could be a high number on the Mississippi Coast, with service personnel stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, the Seabee base in Gulfport, and a Navy presence at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, along with Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg.

Altogether, the military employs more than 19,000 people in southern Mississippi.

“Just the Army National Guard alone has about 800 personnel,” Presley said.

The proposal would include Mississippi Power. Co., Entergy Mississippi, CenterPoint Energy, Atmos Energy Corp., Mississippi River Gas and Willmut Gas.

It would not apply to cooperatives or government-owned utilities, Presley said.

Presley, who also heads the PSC’s Northern District, proposed the discount program. Southern District Commissioner Sam Britton and Central District Commissioner Cecil Brown voted to review the idea and help come up with recommendations.

Albritton could not be reached immediately for comment.

However, his media spokesman, Daniel Ford, said Albritton supports the idea “because it will help military families.”

Wednesday’s decision, Ford said, “is the initial step that could lead to making a difference.”

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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