NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY -

New Bern city officials met on Tuesday to discuss an option that could lower utility bills for residents.

The option proposed is one that has been brought up to surrounding areas in Eastern Carolina- allowing Duke Energy to take ownership over the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency's power plants.

The North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency includes 32 municipalities, including New Bern. Before Duke Energy can take ownership of the plants, all 32 municipalities would have to agree for the ownership change.

Some officials say this ownership change could benefit local residents because they would see a reduction in their utility bill.

Officials say that when building the four power plants that service parts of Eastern Carolina, it left those who use those plants with almost 2 billion dollars in debt.

That left customers to help pay off the debt through higher monthly bills. If all 32 municipalities agree to allow Duke Energy to take ownership, Duke Energy would also be taking over most of the debt customers are paying off.

New Bern Mayor, Dana Outlaw, says his goal is to figure out the best way to solve high bills for customers.

"Well the ultimate goal is to have lower rates, and continued lower rates for years to come," Outlaw said.

In the Tuesday night meeting, officials did not make any decisions on if they will go through and support the proposal made by Duke Energy.

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City of New Bern officials are scheduled to discuss Tuesday night Duke Energy's plan to buy out North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency's power plants.

According to local leaders, building the power plants that service several cities in Eastern Carolina has left them almost $2 billion in debt. Users are helping to pay off that debt through a fee in their monthly utility bills, but city leaders are trying to change that.

If Duke buys ownership interest and takes over the debt, that could create lower utility bills, officials said.

Board members for the City of Greenville discussed this option Monday night.

"My number one goal here is to have reliable energy source at the lowest possible cost for our communities for a long time in the future," said Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas.

In order for Duke Energy to take ownership, all 32 municipalities that are part of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency would have to be in agreement.