Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Council still undecided about electricity

February 20, 2002

The question of whether Baldwin should continue to generate electricity is one the Baldwin City Council always seems to go back to when discussing the city's electric options.

"The question to be asked is shall the Baldwin electric utility be capable of generating electricity for the town in any sort of emergency?" City Administrator Larry Paine said.

But just like at Monday's city council meeting, the council members are torn on whether to build a new power plant or find an alternative power solution to Baldwin's electricity situation.

"I do believe it's a huge asset," Council Member George McCrary said of Baldwin being able to generate power. "But I also have concerns."

The council reviewed its electric options Monday including possibly building a new power plant, which is one of eight original options Utility Director Terry McKinney presented to the council and the city last June. The council had been considering three of the eight options.

"Really you've got three options and right now, one of those options is not available," McKinney said. "One is sell this utility. Two is to add generation. Three is a total requirements package. I've made several requests of Kansas City Power and Light and Western Resources for a total requirements agreement and they don't want to do it.

"The question is, do you want to be able to generate when Kansas City Power and Light loses its feed to the city?" he said.

Council Member Ken Wagner said he was interested in Baldwin pursuing generation.

"I think at this point in time, I'm going to be supportive in the city investing in some additional generation," Wagner said. "If we want to be able to bring the city back up, if we want the convenience, we're going to have to pay for it."

He said the city would also be generating revenue from the electric utility.

But Council Member Todd Cohen said he wasn't convinced that was the way to go for the city.

"I don't think I'm there yet," he said. "Do we have any other options?

Cohen said he wasn't against the additional generation idea, but he would like to have an independent audit of the city's electrical situation before making a decision.

"Yes you can have an independent come in. I estimate it would cost about $50,000," McKinney said. "I'm sure they're going to give you those three options and you'll still have to make a decision."

He said there have been at least three electric utility studies completed in the last 10 years in Baldwin, the most recent in 1999.

Council Member Ted Brecheisen said he also wanted some additional information.

"I do not want to get out of the distribution end of it, that's for sure. But I still have questions," Brecheisen said. "When you commit to $6.5 million, that's a lot of money. I think that there are a couple of different avenues I'd like to see some figures on."

Mayor Ken Hayes said he thought the issue needed to be looked at further.

"I think at this point, we're not going to get this issue solved," he said. "I think we need another committee of the whole meeting and a town meeting. We need to get some numbers on what it'd cost for another study."

McKinney said he would provide the council more information on the options, get bids on completing another study and present information about the previous studies.

Hayes said whatever the council decided, it needed to be done soon.

"I think we do need to make a decision because we're running out of rope," he said. "I think we need to keep this in the fore front of our minds."

In other business, the city council:

Heard from Chamber of Commerce President Bill Harmon. Harmon said he would like the city to provide $3,600 in financial support to the chamber so it can apply for grants and help pay its monthly expenses.

The council members said they needed more information about what the money would be used for and if it would fit in the city's budget.

The council approved 5-0 to table the decision and send the issue to the finance committee for discussion.

Approved 5-0 to exempt the Maple Leaf Committee from the city code that prohibits commercial activity on public streets and sidewalks.

Met in executive session for one hour to discuss personnel evaluations. After executive session, the council approved 5-0 to give Paine a raise of one percent to his salary, three percent toward his retirement and an additional week of vacation.

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