Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2010

Electrical rates could be increasing 6 to 12 percent

The Baldwin City Council is considering increasing electrical rates 6 to 12 percent.

The Baldwin City Council is considering increasing electrical rates 6 to 12 percent.

April 22, 2010

A possible electrical rate increase of 6 to 12 percent was discussed by the Baldwin City Council during a work session at its regular meeting Monday.

The rate increase has been the elephant in the room since the council approved the 2010 budget in August based on an electrical increase. But the subject wasn’t raised until Monday. It brought a two-hour discussion, but no action.

“We’re not going to have any action tonight and I don’t think anyone thought we would,” said Mayor Ken Wagner, who asked City Administrator Jeff Dingman what he needed from the council to proceed.

“We need a road map, sooner rather than later,” said Dingman. “From my perspective, I’m ready to be bringing a resolution out for the next meeting for an increase.”

But Council President Ted Brecheisen Jr., who also chairs the utility committee, said he wanted his group to go through the utility budget line by line to see if reductions can be made first. He asked for 30 days to do that.

“I think we need to do that first before we come and say we need a 6 percent or 12 percent increase,” said Brecheisen.

Wagner agreed to the closer look, but added he’d be surprised if much savings could be found.

“You guys work it out,” said Wagner. “Let’s see if we can bring this back for the last meeting in May for more discussion.”

During Monday’s discussion, the council learned the bottom-line number for why the increase is needed. Last year, the electric department operated in the red. Expenses outpaced revenue by $170,000.

There were two major causes for that. The first was a cooler summer than expected, which resulted in revenues at only 90 percent of what had been budgeted. The other was increased cost of buying power. Power purchase had been budgeted at $1.65 million, but $1.8 million was spent, said Dingman.

Wagner thought it would be worse.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Wagner. “I expected a larger loss. I was expecting a quarter of a million dollars.”

The electrical loss last year was the first in some time. In 2008, the department was $2,532 in the black. The council, which consists of first-year members, other than Brecheisen and the mayor, also learned that there hasn’t been an electrical rate increase since the 15-16 percent rise is 2002. The council also decreased the rate slightly in 2005.

After hearing much of the discussion, Council Member Bonnie Plumberg asked if residents had ever been informed or could be informed regarding misconceptions about the city’s electricity, such as the majority of the power comes from KCPL and other sources, rather than the city’s power plants. Those plants are only used during peak usage months in the summer and in emergency situations during the winter.

Wagner pointed to a series of stories that were printed in the Signal in 2007 outlining the city’s power situation and history. The series, which won first place in the Kansas Press Association contest that year, is available in the Signal’s archives at baldwincity.com. Use the keyword “Price of Power” for the search.

Complicating the situation, the council was told, was the need to add breakers that will cost $290,000 at the substation. That would enable the city’s power to be brought back up quicker during outages because not all users would be brought back up at once.

Regardless of that, an increase is needed to avoid operating in the red again, said Dingman.

“We’ve got to do something,” he said. “Twelve percent is what we need; we can do it 6 percent at a time.”

It wasn’t all bad electrical news Monday, however. For the sixth year in a row, the city will again sell excess capacity – not power – to the city of Gardner. That has brought $25,000 to $33,000 to the city over the years.

In other business, on final reading, the council approved changes to zoning and subdivision regulations that had been discussed for months.

Comments

NanCrisp 4 years, 6 months ago

At my house, this will be accompanied by a 6-12% decrease in electricity use.

0

NanCrisp 4 years, 6 months ago

"The series, which won first place in the Kansas Press Association contest that year, is available in the Signal’s archives at baldwincity.com."

Get over yourself, Jeff. I used to judge the advertising portion of the KPA awards when I was the KPA's marketing manager. I was 27 years old. My 28-year-old colleague who was KPA's membership director was one of the judges of the news/ed portion of the awards. The Pulitzer Prize, it is not.

0

sawman 4 years, 6 months ago

My thoughts exactly Nan. It isn't enough that we pay 40% more than someone just outside of town? Not to mention three times what others pay for water that is piped past us, in addition to being taxed the highest of twenty townships in the county. What a mistake buying a house here was.

0

b8es 4 years, 6 months ago

Forget the $290k for the breakers. That's just nonsense.

The rate increase is just the reality of our former leaders allowing McKinney (former public works guy) to convince them that we needed to spend $6 Million on a new power plant that is used about three times a year. You can bet that the debt service on that little toy dwarfs the $25k - $33k we have received from Gardner.

Wonder why the generator in the picture looks so nice and shiny? It's because the thing is NEVER USED. It's like a $6 Million display in the Museum of Insane Decisions.

0

greyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

I wish I could get a $2,000 raise for screwing the citizens of Baldwin. Sounds like fun.

0

beevo 4 years, 6 months ago

This is just another big load of crap! This town is the most mismanaged town in the State of Kansas! In Baldwin "City?" financial responsibility are just words found in a dictionary. Word is out that Baldwin "City?" is not a place to live! Why move here when it is far cheaper to live in other communities. Our property values have dropped & continue to drop. We need to face the fact that there seems to be no hope for a brighter future in this town. Maybe we should just sell our homes at a loss and get out.

0

hellothere 4 years, 6 months ago

Nancy I don't get on here that often but every single time I do you are complaining about something. You must be a bitter old lady.

I hope to see all your names when I go to vote next time for our city counsel/mayor. If everything is so bad here all of you should step up, run for office and show us that you could do it better. I doubt that happens though, griping about it is so much easier.

0

robinbayer 4 years, 6 months ago

The following link discusses a recent inter-term project by Baker University students to study the revenues and expenses of the Baldwin City Electric Utility. Its findings may be useful to those who want to more fully understand the revenues and expenses of the Utility owned by the citizens of Baldwin City.

http://baldwincity.org/bcityblog/2010/04/22/baker-university-inter-term-2009-2010-student-project/

0

TheOnlyGreyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

While I don't know all the details behind our high rates, I tentatively agree with some of what Sawman and b8es are saying on the subject. I do not understand why Baldwin rates are higher than those in other areas. I think much of the blame lies at the feet of past officials, and that current ones can only do so much with what they inherited.

I followed the link Robin posted (thanks for that) and was somewhat surprised at how big a bite personnel takes. That makes me wonder in turn whether this cost represents excessive compensation to a few people at the top or is it spread among a good-sized, necessary staff? Any way of posting job titles with compensation package information here for us to see?

Numbers and graphs are informative, but some in-depth analysis from an independent source would be helpful. I.e., it's one thing to know what the numbers are, where the money comes from and where it goes, but some reasons for those numbers being what they are would be enlightening.

As for the trivial b****ing that was introduced into the thread...

What Nan is really saying is that any organization that would accord her some authority must be rinky-dink and disreputable. Hard to argue that point, although Groucho Marx said it better and first.

Obviously, Jeff did not equate the KPA awards with Pulitzers, but that doesn't stop Ms Know-It-All from setting up that straw man so she could blow it over. How many cans of beans did you go through to achieve that feat of wind power, Nan? It must've been the high point of your day.

The article cited is relevant to this story. With all the venomous, hateful attacks Nan and a few others make, who can blame Jeff for trying to achieve some balance by mentioning when an article received accolades from the press association?

What would make Nan so mean-spirited and vicious? Was she a teen wallflower, left standing awkwardly on the edges at the high school dances--and still resentful so many (and I do mean many) years later? Is she still trying to make herself feel better by launching gratuitous attacks on others? Is she the only one who can't see how pathetic and unbalanced these attacks make her look?

I expect your usual flippant retort, Nan. Don't disappoint me.

Oh, and one more thing--if you can just institute a "6-12% decrease in electricity use" without batting an eye, you're probably wasting a lot of electricity on things you won't miss. Perhaps the rate increase will make you a more sensible and "greener" consumer. You could start by unplugging your computer and going outside.

0

kermit 4 years, 6 months ago

Grey the First......you are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for my chuckle of the day.

0

TheOnlyGreyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

Hellothere & Kermit~ I was the girl who beat up the boys who beat up my friends. Have never liked bullies or imbeciles.

Have a great weekend!

0

robinbayer 4 years, 6 months ago

The following link will provide citizens information about the salaries of the personnel for the Baldwin City Electric Utility:

http://baldwincity.org/bcityblog/2010/04/23/salary-information-for-electric-utility-personnel/

0

TheOnlyGreyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, Robin~ Unfortunately, when I tried to go there, I got an error message. Anyone able to open it?

0

Torch 4 years, 6 months ago

"It's for the kids!"

There you go. Now you should all buy into it.

0

robinbayer 4 years, 6 months ago

TheOnlyGreyGhost,

I was able to reach the page and document a minute or two ago. Please try it again. If you are unable to reach it through the City's blog site I will figure out another way of publishing it so you and others can reach it.

Robin Bayer 913-645-6666

0

averagejoe 4 years, 6 months ago

I am sorry to see these comments degenerating somewhat into name calling and bitterness. I'll just offer my brief opinion as someone who's family has lived here for 90 years.

Part of the problem with the current governance in Baldwin City, at the city and school board level, is the fact that we have seen an influx of higher income and educated people move into the city in the past 10 years.

Somehow I think most of these new residents moved to Baldwin City because it IS Baldwin City. But some then forgot what our city is all about.

While these new residents are welcome and bring new friends, taxes and neighborhoods that enhance all of us, they have also brought attitudes of wanting Baldwin City to be a miniature wealthy Johnson County.

This causes friction between the old time Baldwin City families who like progress and modernization, but live on modest incomes and like to maintain affordable tax rates.

The city is in desparate need of improvements within the city proper itself- curbing, sewers, gutters, sidewalks. And yet, it seems a lot of taxpayer money is going to new developments on the outskirts of town while the downtown surrounding area is neglected.

Tax money is being spent on the new resident's needs while the old family neighborhoods are ignored. (How about that $300,000 walking and bike trail that runs through "new" developments?)

While we should appreciate the service of council and school board members, those who are new Baldwin City residents in government service should be reminded that they represent ALL citizens and neighborhoods within the city limits. Some members have forgotten this, it seems. And forgetting the historic value of Baldwin City proper and it's residents will only lead to increased friction and infighting in this fine city. This serves no one well.

0

jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

Very well done. You're no average joe.

0

Torch 4 years, 6 months ago

"I'll just offer my brief opinion as someone who's family has lived here for 90 years."

Is that like being a season ticket holder? This statement encapsulates many of the issues in Baldwin. No one should care how long your family has lived here. But in our little slice of paradise it matters way more than it should.

Personally I stopped reading your post as soon as I saw those words. The fact that you felt the need to point out the longevity of your family's residence in the city tells me enough.

0

jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

Very well done. You are Torch.

0

averagejoe 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for helping to prove my point about the "name calling and bitterness", Torch.

Very well done, indeed.

0

kermit 4 years, 6 months ago

Did anyone happen to see the rather large advertisement KPL has in this week's Signal and I believe has been in last week's Signal ? In a nutshell KPL is asking for permission (not from the ratepayers mind you) for an 11% rate increase. Please read this again --11%. KPL ain't no bargain either.

Let's be honest and acknowledge that energy is a commodity that is no longer cheap. Gone are the days for cheap power, cheap gas, cheap natural gas and cheap water. I am not happy about my rising energy bills but honestly don't think my city electrical bill is that outrageous compared to friends and family I have living in JOCO and in other parts of the country. I suspect my gas/electrial bills reflect the fact that we have reinsulated our home, put new windows in and have invested in a high efficiency a/c and furnace. We also make sure lights are turned off when not in use (however I refuse to use those awful "green lightbulbs" they are worthless ).

Older homes in this community may need to do some of these kind of proactive type things. If I am not mistaken there is a city sponsored program that will help with these kind of issues for those who cannot afford it. In fact I think I read where there are actually volunteers here in Baldwin who will help do some of the manual labor that the program does not cover. Sounds like a great program for those citizens living in the older parts of town who feel like the city is catering to just the newbies across the highway.

I really think it's more productive for all of us find ways to deal with the inevitability of increasing energy costs and share effective and innovative ideas with each other. Grumbling and mumbling about our city administrator and elected officials may make you feel good for about 2 seconds but doesn't get to the heart of the problem. If I am not mistaken all these people live in the city limits and have to pay the same rate we do. Do you honestly think they really want to raise rates if they don't have to? Also, please re-read this article. It reports we haven't had a rate increase since 2002. Are we really surprised that after 8 years rates will rise? Look at your cable bill and figure out how many times Mediacom has risen there rates in 8 years.

I am not happy about rate increases at all. However I live in the real world and are looking for real world solutions--not just the predictable whining about the unfairness of it all.

0

khayes 4 years, 6 months ago

As one of the past officials that is mentioned in this thread I would like to remind the posters and citizens of a few points about power in this fair city and why were in the rate situation that we are currently trapped in.

The infrastructure of Baldwin for decades...roughly mid 1960s to 2000 was largely ignored or was repaired with a band aid approach. Rates were kept down but the systems aged, decayed, and were ill suited to meet the demands that were placed upon it by new development that began in the 1990s.

1999 and 2000 were very hot stormy summers and everyone that was here remembers the day long black outs and power problems that plagued us. I vividly remember the screams to fix the system by the citizens.

In 2001 we investigated deeply with KCPL, KPL, and Energy Corp the idea of selling the utility. The response was that due to it being in such poor shape...no one...and I mean no one wanted it. This left us with the only choice...fix it.

Many aspects of the power grid needed attention including generation. Money had to be spent on upgrades and rebuilding that had been delayed for decades. This meant a lot of money had to be spent to rebuild the entire system. You want to know why it cost so much? Ask the leaders from decades past why they scrimped and "saved" by not doing these necessary things over that time frame. The bill came due folks and if you want your lights on and the toilets to flush it had to be done.

Now all that being said do I agree with the rate increase? No absolutely not. Thanks to Councilman Bayer providing and then looking over the wage and pay structure its time to do something proactive on that front. For instance a wage freeze. HINT HINT WAGE FREEZE.......... Also it is high time we ended Baker University and the School districts special rates for power. They are huge consumers and should pay more. They certainly would get a whole lot more serious about conservation if they were faced with rates on a similar scale to the public. Yes I said it, the school district needs to pay more. If they are silly enough to build a new school we dont need then they need a slap in the face to get real about how the money is being spent.

But our elected officials need to get serious about making...MAKING... the bureaucrats that run the day to day operations make cuts. For instance we have a city inspector that is hell on wheels about attacking business compliance in this town but will let a neighbor to city hall...look 200 feet west of city hall pile up crap to the heavens and do NOTHING about it. We have an IT guy that makes 40K a year if I am reading the chart correctly. Uh for what? Out source it or retrain someone on the payroll to handle the data systems. New trucks and it would appear that a vehicle for every "behind' that is employed by the city....stop the spending.

Ken Hayes

0

Torch 4 years, 5 months ago

Sorry averagejoe. It's not name calling and bitterness when it's the truth.

Keeping ones head in the sand is normal in this community. Denial is the watchword. If you think this community isn't rife with nepotism you haven't been paying attention.

And people who qualify their comments by indicating how long they or their family have lived here are great examples of that problem. Does his/her opinion matter more than that of someone whose family has only been here 3 years? I think not. The fact that they think it does says much.

0

averagejoe 4 years, 5 months ago

"Comments" is a public service section to allow interested citizens an opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions on "issues" reported in news articles about current events.

"Comments" is not intended as a section for anonymous, hidden, secretive posters to attack other serious contributors personally who are focused on contributing to good public policy and democracy.

Had Torch bothered to read my complete Comment (which she proudly boasted she did not), she would understand (like all readers have) that my statement "as someone who's family has lived here for 90 years" is important to my "whole" comment and opinion as expressed later in my posting.

How about focusing on the purpose of the "Comments Section" and allow concerned and serious citizens the opportunity to express their public policy opinions without personal attacks?

This is also the repsonsibility of the Signal to moderate and keep the Comments Section focused on its purpose. Bitter personal attacks is one reason citizens do not participate in contributing here.

0

Baldthunder 4 years, 5 months ago

Expenses outpaced revenue by $170,000. There were two major causes for that. The first was a cooler summer than expected, which resulted in revenues at only 90 percent of what had been budgeted.

OK.. let me get this straight. Since I was responsible with my energy usage, I will now have to pay more in the future. So instead of taking Nan's approach of reducing my energy usage, I should instead leave my lights on all night and run my AC constantly with my windows open.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.