The Marion City Council voted unanimously to sign a 40-year contract with the Kansas Power Pool, a municipal energy agency with 24 member-owner cities, at its Jan. 3 meeting.
After contemplating a no vote on the longer contract at two previous council meetings, Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said he thinks the council wants to be good members of the pool.
“We would still like to be able to voice our concerns, too,” Heitschmidt said. “I don’t think it is our intent to be obstructionists. (The council) just wants to say our piece.”
City Administrator Roger Holter said the city initially signed a two-year contract with KPP, but in 2012 adopted a 20-year contract.
Four years later, he said, the city is now locked into a 40-year term.
“The rolling 20-year agreement made more sense given in all likelihood no termination clause,” Holter said. “But every five years (member cities) could decide to continue with no termination clause for (another) 20 years.”
Letter of intent
Mark Chesney, CEO and general manager of KPP, sent Holter a letter of intent Dec. 19.
Chesney stated that based on uncertainty in the power industry, and particularly in the region that encompasses the 24 cities in the pool, an alignment of all the contracts needed to be accomplished by each re-signing.
The letter stated the only difference in the new contract from the previous one is the termination language.
Termination of the new contract could happen three different ways.
The first, Chesney outlined in the letter, would be the expiration of the term, which cannot exceed 40 years.
The second would be a default by the member-owner city, and the KPP’s election to terminate the power purchase contract.
The third way would include payment of premium, if any, and interest on any bonds and retirement of those bonds.
The city of Marion and one other town voted no on the resolution adopted Dec. 16, but it was passed overwhelmingly by the other 22 members.
In the previous contract, Holter said, there was no termination clause except default of payment.
Assuring power supply
When the council voted yes, Holter said the council is ensuring citizens of Marion access of power purchase and power supply for “effectively” 40 years.
“As a council, you have laid the foundation for future administrators and utility department heads to provide needed electricity to keep our town operating,” he said.
At the same time, the electrical department is the most profitable, which subsidizes the city’s general fund operations on an annual basis.
The bottom line, Holter said, is the city needs to do what is in the best interest of the residents.
“We will still have representation and voting membership, and we will continue to push to try to get someone from our city on the board of directors for the KPP,” he said.
Heitschmidt said for the past year he has thought about issues brought to the council for discussion.
After reading about different ideas on the subject, he said he found an approach to address some of those community concerns.
“What really hit home for me was neighboring,” he said. “I think it has a lot of positive possibilities for a community. It won’t hurt to try.”
One way to formally roll out the neighboring campaign, Heitschmidt said, would be to speak with Jeremiah Lange, pastor of the Marion Presbyterian Church and part of the ministerial alliance.
One of the goals of the alliance is to advance the cause of Christianity through networking. Heitschmidt said he would like to get on the organization’s agenda to discuss the neighboring concept.
“The whole idea is building long-term relationships with those who live around us,” he said. “As I read the book (about neighboring), I was convicted in my own neighborhood.”
Heitschmidt said he believes that by being good neighbors, some of the issues before the council last year could have been solved without the city’s intervention.
“(The council) didn’t really have good answers to these problems that could easily be solved by getting to know your neighbor,” he said. “This is a win-win deal.”
Heitschmidt said the concept may work for some neighborhoods and not for others, but it’s worth an attempt.
Heitschmidt talked about neighborhoods having a block party in the early spring or summer.
“Hopefully, working with the Ministerial Alliance will help us out as well,” he said.
After he meets with the alliance, Heitschmidt said he plans to promote the block party idea.
“I don’t view this just in the boundaries of the city limits,” he said. “I really considered the county lake as part of our neighboring process, and reservoir.”
Heitschmidt said it could be beneficial to all Marion County communities.
In other business, the council:
• approved Heitschmidt’s appointments to fill various community boards. Candy Vinduska, Alex “Casey” Case and Ryan Edmundson were approved for the Parks and Recreation board.
• learned there are board service opportunities: one person to serve on the board of zoning appeals, two people to serve on the library board, two for the Marion County Historical Museum board, one for the housing authority and one person to serve on the Hilltop Manor board.
• approved Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas for health insurance. The city pays 80 percent of the premium and the employee pays 20 percent. The cost to the city would be $176,405 with the dental option. Holter said the amount is still below the amount budgeted for 2017.