LAKELAND, Fla. -- Senior Lakeland Electric linemen helping rebuild the power grid in Puerto Rico are being paid $63 per hour. However, the company Whitefish Energy is billing Puerto Rico’s public power company, known as Prepa, $319 per hour for linemen, according to a New York Times report.
The small, Montana-based company Whitefish Energy has been called into question after it won a $300 million contract to restore power in Puerto Rico. The controversial contract has been cancelled, but it will remain in place through November.
Lakeland Electric linemen, as well as others from across Florida, left for Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The $63 per hour rate is normal for a senior linemen responding to an emergency, a Lakeland Electric spokesperson said. A $319 per hour rate is extremely high.
Lakeland Electric knows how these contracts typically work. It brought in hundreds of out-of-state linemen after Irma. They got paid emergency wages during their time in Florida, but it was nowhere near $319.
“It's one for one. There's no markup,” Cindy Clemmons of Lakeland Electric said. “It's paying our guys what they're entitled to, according to what they make for a living.”
Clemmons also stressed that no matter what happens with Whitefish, Lakeland Electric customers will not pay for the work its linemen do in Puerto Rico.
In response to an email, Whitefish Energy tells 10News they had to offer premium rates to entice linemen to leave overtime projects at home and leave their families. They also say there were no comparable rates for restoring damage after this type of storm, on an island with virtually no power.
10News has reached out to Whitefish Energy for comment and to confirm the $319 figure, but has not heard back. A spokesman told the New York Times, “Simply looking at the rate differential does not take into account Whitefish’s overhead cost. We have to pay a premium to entice the labor to come to Puerto Rico to work.”
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