Archive for Wednesday, June 7, 2000

BPU suit hits supreme court snag

June 7, 2000

The Kansas City Board of Public Utilities has again sought to move a lawsuit, of which the City of Baldwin is involved, from Franklin County District Court to Wyandotte County.

Baldwin city attorney Bob Bezek, said attorneys for BPU filed the motion May 12 in the Kansas Supreme Court. Previous attempts to have the trial moved to Wyandotte County have failed.

"They tried to do it at the trial court level and they lost," Bezek said. "Now they filed this action in the Kansas Supreme Court. They are doing every thing they can to not litigate in Franklin County."

Baldwin and a group of other cities in the Kansas Municipal Energy Association are suing BPU over prices charged for electricity when the BPU's Nearman generating station was closed because of a fire last summer. The case was filed in Franklin County because Ottawa, one of the cities in the case, sustained the most financial damage.

In March, Franklin County District Court Judge James Smith upheld the decision to file the suit in Franklin County.

"I think Franklin County is where this case needs to be litigated," Bezek said.

Bezek said the Kansas Supreme Court can grant or deny BPU's request to change the trial location based on its petition, or require its attorneys to show cause which is what Bezek expects will happen. He said it could take 30-60 days to resolve.

"It surprised me they pushed this hard on where we are going to litigate," Bezek said. "In my mind, it is putting dollars into where we are going to argue. I'd rather deal with what."

Baldwin paid up to $2,420 per megawatt-hour for power in late July, compared to the normal price of about $50 per megawatt-hour. Without a reserve fund for such emergencies, Baldwin took out a $300,000 no fund warrant from Baldwin State Bank to pay for the bill.

The expense was passed to Baldwin electric customers, who were billed a surcharge based on usage. The amount was payable in full, or in monthly installments for a year. The average residential customer is paying an $11.50 surcharge per month.

If the court grants the cities a reimbursement, City Administrator Larry Paine said Baldwin customers will be given a reimbursement.

In addition to recovering overcharges from the summer, the lawsuit seeks to prohibit the BPU from using the same pricing formula in future billings.

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