Westar to boost charges in Marion by $82,000 annually

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Marion residents are likely to get hit with an additional electrical rate charge of $82,000 annually from Westar Energy for transmission charges under a new contract, the Marion City Commission learned Monday.

The charges include a 4.39 percent energy loss adjustment that Commissioner Larry McLain said means the city is giving the power company an “incentive to find losses. You’re paying them for inefficiencies in their equipment, so they don’t have to do anything about it.”

City Administrator David Mayfield said the kilowatts-per-hour rate will remain unchanged, and has essentially stayed unchanged since 1985.

Local electrician Jim Davis challenged Mayfield’s statement, saying rates were raised “about four years ago.”

City Clerk Linda Holub said base rates to residents and businesses were raised, but not kilowatt-per-hour rates.

Mayfield said the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency has been asked for assistance in negotiating a new contract with Westar for 60 days before the current one ends in July 2005. The $82,000 is a cost that previously was absorbed by Westar, he said.

The Commission also agreed to pay $4,000, which is 25 percent of the cost, to renovate fluorescent lighting in the Bown-Corby Building for Butler County Community College.

Marvin Dodson, service manager for Butler, said the college would pay the remaining $12,000 under a bid for the lighting.

He said the bid was tied to a similar project in a building on the college campus in El Dorado, and therefore the bid went outside Marion because a Marion contractor didn’t want to include El Dorado.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot recalled that the school district gave Bown-Corby, a former elementary school building, to the city to facilitate its lease to Butler at a minimal cost-$25 annually.

Although the commissioners hesitated to back the new lighting project, Crofoot said there were other times the city stepped in with financial help for the building-for repairing the roof, fixing water damage, replacing a leaking boiler and installing heating and air conditioning.

Dodson said lighting replacement costs will be realized back for the city in three to five years through electricity costs savings.

Prior to the approval, Mayor Martin Tice said he would play “the devil’s advocate” by asking Dodson why the city should pay anything, given that it would realize the electrical savings anyway if Butler paid the entire cost of the lighting.

Dodson said the city really didn’t have to help under any other agreement other than because the city owns the building and the college doesn’t. He said the college will pay for engineering on the project and for any charges required in recycling fluorescent ballasts.

Dodson said entire fixtures will be replaced where necessary, but otherwise only ballasts and bulbs will be replaced. A big share of the electrical savings will be realized through replacing typical retail T-12 bulbs with narrower T-8 bulbs that are narrower but yield more light with less energy.

Mayfield asked Dodson to come perhaps a year ahead of time with possible financial requests because “it’s tough for me just to come up with $4,000. Capital outlay is the only place in the budget we have it.”

Mayfield said the city somewhat takes a chance pulling the $4,000 out of capital outlay this late in the year because it is the reserve for emergencies.

“We could do it, and hope there is no big water line break or sewer line break,” he said.

Mayfield said the capital outlay fund gets its money through periodic transfers from utility funds for purposes such as line replacement.

McLain said he thought Butler “is an asset to the community” by providing “educational benefits beyond high school.”

McLain made the motion for approval with Crofoot joining in to say, “I guess I will second.”

Tice added a third affirmative vote with a request to Dodson to “next time give us a heads-up on things” so the city would be notified earlier.

Public Works Director Harvey Sanders said cleanup weeks added 39 tons a week to solid waste pickup for the city, “not as much as in former years. There were lots of tree limbs hauled off.”

Tice and Mayfield were to meet Tuesday with representatives from Hillsboro, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas Rural Water Association and Rural Development to discuss the recently completed water plant feasibility study for a joint district.

Casey Case of Case Insurance presented the city a refund check for $3,858.69 made possible by the city safety program.

Mayfield said he would be going to an agri-tourism conference this week in Great Bend.

The commissioners approved a $30,000 transfer from the utility fund to the equipment reserve fund, $15,000 from the water plant and $15,000 from sewer.

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