City invited to join new energy group

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro City Council was briefed at its Aug. 16 meeting on impending changes in the way Hillsboro will receive its electricity after the city’s franchise contract with Westar Energy expires in October 2006.

“Your way of life is going to change, just like my way of life is going to change,” said Bill Calloway, chairman of Kansas Power Pool, a relatively new consortium of communities banding together in an effort to keep electrical power affordable for residents and businesses.

Calloway also directs the Clay Center Municipal Electric & Water, a local utility that has become the cornerstone for creating the KPP.

So far, seven cities have signed on as KPP members and 17 more have submitted letters of intent to join.

Calloway was in Hillsboro at City Administrator Steve Garrett’s invitation to explain the initiative to council members.

The purpose of the KPP, Calloway said, is to acquire affordable and reliable energy for Kansas municipalities over the long term.

As more communities come together under one public utility, he said, the KPP will have increasing influence to bargain for lower-priced electricity and related benefits-something no local community can do effectively on its own.

Public power utilities are common in the surrounding states of Missouri, Nebraska and Missouri, but KPP is the first one to develop in Kansas.

Calloway said KPP will give municipalities in this state-and their energy customers-a seat at the negotiating table that to this point has included only independently owned utilities (IOU) such as Westar.

“IOUs are not there serve my customers,” Calloway said. “They’re out there to serve their stockholders.”

Currently, Westar is the only energy supplier in this area. Calloway said new rules approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission will change the way energy suppliers will operate in the near future.

Those regulations are why Westar has notified Hillsboro and other communities about the termination of their current contracts, Calloway said.

Without the participation of a viable public utility such as KPP, he added, Hillsboro and other communities will be at the mercy of Westar’s new contract-which will more than double the cost of electricity once all the changes take effect.

Beyond the cost of the energy itself, of equal or greater importance is the assurance that cities such as Hillsboro can maintain their right to use Westar’s electrical power lines-the “garden hose,” as Calloway called it, that delivers energy from the power source to a city.

“You can’t haul it in a bucket,” he said.

To join the KPP, Hillsboro would need to pay a one-time fee of $1,200 to cover the legal expenses of adding a member city to the corporation, Calloway said.

Also, Hillsboro would contribute-along with up to nine other new-member cities-its share of a $25,000 study to determine how to implement the delivery of power.

Calloway said any member city can withdraw from the KPP at any time and for any reason following a two-year notice.

The council will consider Calloway’s invitation to join the KPP at a later date.

Sunday beer sales

Responding to a request from Casey’s General Stores Inc., the council discussed-and ultimately tabled-a request that Hillsboro adopt an ordinance that would allow retail stores to sell beer on Sundays.

Asked for his interpretation of state law, City Attorney Dan Baldwin said recently passed legislation will make all cities in Kansas “wet” starting Nov. 15. That would enable retail liquor stores to open in a community unless that community has passed an ordinance to forbid such establishments.

Baldwin said the legislation also allows for the sale of alcohol, including beer, from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays-but only if a city passes an ordinance to allow such sales.

Councilor Len Coryea said he wasn’t opposed to having a liquor store in Hillsboro “if it’s done right,” or to the consumption of beer on Sundays. But he expressed his opposition to the sale of beer on Sundays.

Having said that, he asked what economic effect a ban on Sunday beer sales might have on local retailers, particularly if nearby communities decide to allow Sunday sales.

Mayor Delores Dalke said there was no way to know for sure what that economic impact might be.

The council decided to table the request in order to see how other communities decide to address the issue.

Other business

In other matters, the council:

— accepted a bid from Wright’s Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep for a new police car. The bid for the Dodge Charger was for $23,300.

Hillsboro Ford-Mercury submitted a $21,714 bid for a Crown Victoria. Considerations within the bids made them essentially even, according to Police Chief Dan Kinning.

The new car, which will be delivered by the first of the year, replaces a three-year-old Crown Victoria with almost 100,000 miles.

— gave Hillsboro American Legion Post 366 permission to erect a second monument in Memorial Park that will list additional military veterans from Hillsboro.

— accepted renewal rates for employee health insurance that were almost 7 percent lower than a year ago. Coverage will remain the same.

— approved ordinances 1109 and 1110 to adopt the “2005 Uniform Public Offense Code for Kansas Cities” and the “2005 Standard Traffic Ordinance for Kansas Cities,” respectively.

— approved the city’s 2006 budget for certification by the county clerk after receiving no input from the public at a recent budget hearing.

— approved Dalke’s nomination of Marcia Williams for reappointment to the Hillsboro Housing Authority for another three-year term.

— heard from Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce President Becky Nuss that the Chamber will be sponsoring an appreciation barbecue for volunteers Sept. 18, the day after the annual Arts & Crafts Fair.

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