Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2002

McKinney outlines new plan for Baldwin power

February 13, 2002

It appears a new power plant is on the horizon for Baldwin City.

The Baldwin City Council heard in a "committee of the whole" meeting Monday night a report from Utility Director Terry McKinney outlining a new plan for building a generation plant south of the city.

Although nothing is set in stone yet, the preferred plan appears to be a $6.5 million plant located just north of the present waste water treatment plant. Roughly speaking, an electrical rate increase to pay for it would cost residents about $17 a month, McKinney said.

Following McKinney's presentation, the council and members of the utility committee discussed options. What it boiled down to was with the addition of the second KCPL feed to Baldwin to help cut down outages, the new plant would be used for peak times in the summer and outages, such as occurred with the recent ice storm.

"This power plant is not planned to run around the clock," said McKinney. "It is designed for when we lose the feed from KCPL and other times when we get curtailed. This is for those peak times."

Committee member Michael C. Green again brought up the idea of getting out of the power business and having a total energy requirement from KCPL for all of Baldwin's power. McKinney said KCPL has rejected the city's request for that service and council members expressed reservations about going that route anyway.

"That's the last thing I ever want to do is throw myself at the mercy of KCPL," said council member Marilyn Pearse.

"I think that these are old battles," said Mayor Ken Hayes. "We need to find a way to get uninterruptible power to the city and that's generating it.

"I think at our next meeting we should give our utility director some direction on which way to go," said Hayes. "Let's keep that in mind and be ready to do that Monday."

The council's regular meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Harter Union on the Baker University campus. While Hayes said there won't be a vote to commit to a plan, there needs to be a direction from the council so McKinney can focus on a plan. Hayes also said there would be a public meeting, much like the "Town Hall Meeting" held last June, to discuss the electrical situation.

The council and committee also discussed the question of whether the old plant should remain operational and what residents' perception of two power plants might be. By keeping the old plant available, it gives the city several advantages, most notably electrical capacity and delaying the cost of decommissioning the site.

Bottom line was everyone at the meeting wanted residents to know what's going on and to participate in the decision making.

"As long as the people know this is our plan, it will be okay," said Pearse. "I'm not that concerned about perception. Everyone that lives here is a partner in this."

To illustrate that, the council sought input from residents in attendance.

"I'm for it," said Dorthea Jackson. "I think we need to keep the old plant going, too."

Council member Todd Cohen expressed concerns about keeping the old plant going. Cohen wants to get power generation out of downtown Baldwin. Other council members agreed that was a long-term goal, but that for now the plant still serves a purpose.

"I don't look at it that way at all," said Pearse. "It's worth a lot in capacity."

"I haven't seen anyone move out of town because of the power plant being downtown," said Ted Brecheisen Jr., another council member. "I don't see that as a negative at all."

McKinney initially said the new plant could be operational within a year, but then backed off that later in the meeting, saying two years might be more realistic. He said what has to happen now is finding an answer to providing more power caused by lack of planning by the council in the past. The city can no longer generate all the power it needs.

"The city has not put in any generating capacity since 1970. We need to fix the problem," said McKinney. "My job was to give the information to you."

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