The BrightRidge Board of Directors has approved an $80,000 engineering review in connection with the potential consolidation of the Johnson City, TN,-based utility and Elizabethton, TN, ES.

The review, to be executed by MidSouth Utility Consultants, is the latest step in a process that could lead to consolidation of BrightRidge and Elizabethton ES by early 2019. Leaders of the two utilities have talked informally for years about the prospect.

“We are seeing businesses and agencies across the region look to consolidation and alliances to lower costs for their customers by increasing efficiency,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “We believe this study will reveal similar benefits for customers in both systems.”

BrightRidge is the 10th-largest TVPPA-member utility, with some 78,000 customers. Elizabethton ES has just more than 26,000 customers. According to BrightRidge officials, the two systems are “near parity” in terms of rates.