Hillsboro council delays decision on electric rate increase

? Cost of power is rising for cities across Kansas.

The Hillsboro City Coun?cil tabled a recommendation at its March 17 meeting that would raise electric rates to offset the rising cost of purchasing power.

City Administrator Larry Paine had recommended that the kilowatt-hour rate be increased from 10.9 cents to 12 cents. For a residence consuming an average of 900 kwh per month, the new rate would mean an increase of $9 to $10 per month.

Following an extended discussion, the recommendation went to a vote. Council?ors Shelby Dirks and Byron McCarty cast dissenting votes while David Loe?wen and Bob Watson voted in favor.

With a 2-2 tie, Mayor Delores Dalke cast the deciding vote, but not before pausing to consider her position.

?I?m not sure because I think there are other ways we can go about doing this, the more I think about it,? she said.

After Dalke was informed that the new rate would take effect June 1 whether a decision was made at this meeting or the next one, the mayor voted ?no? to give the council more time to consider its options.

Council members then voted unanimously to table the issue.

Background issues

Paine said city managers were informed at a recent meeting of the Kansas Muni?ci?pal Utilities that they should expect wholesale utility rates to double over the next five years.

?We?re actually seeing that projection occur,? he told the council.

Paine said the power-purchasing market was destabilized when the South?west Power Pool, a consortium that includes Kansas and eight other states, initiated a system requiring customers to predict their power needs one day ahead of when they would need it.

?This set off a market of buying and selling that was very different than utilities were accustomed to operating,? Paine said. ?The effect on Hillsboro and the other (Kansas Power Pool) customers was an increase in the energy cost adjustment.?

For Hillsboro, the increase was $153,511 from the previous year.

Even with a rate increase to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, Paine said Hills?boro?s electric rate would still be lower than what Marion customers pay.

Hillsboro?s monthly base rate is $9, both for residential and commercial customers, while Marion rates are $12 and $14, respectively. The cost per kilowatt hour for Marion customers is 13.35 cents compared to the proposed rate of 12 cents.

Insurance increase

The council voted 4-0 to renew its property damage and casualty insurance policy through IMA for $86,684, which is a premium increase of $12,319 from the previous year.

?The premium is really driven by our property values,? said Debbie Brevik, IMA representative. ?Our property values have gone from $15.8 million to $17.9 million.?

A factor in the increase was a loss-control survey that affected coverage of the city-owned former AMPI buildings. The city also added the old water tower to the property schedule.

Code withdrawn

As quickly as the issue surfaced a month earlier, the council approved Ordin?ance 1259, which withdraws the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code from the list of codes used in the construction or alteration of buildings within the city.

The issue surfaced in February when George Ying, owner of the building at 101 S. Main, said the investment needed to meet energy-code standards made renovation of his building?and other old buildings along Main Street, for that matter?unaffordable.

The council agreed, and voted 4-0 to withdraw the code.

?Once we do this we will have to go back into the International Build?ing Code and then strike specific sections of the code that refer to the energy code in that code book,? Paine said.

Asked how withdrawing the code will help Ying, Paine replied, ?It only helps George to the point where the issues surrounding the energy code don?t apply toward his remodeling. But anything that would relate to (general) remodeling do not go away.

?The questions around windows, insulation, different kind of electrical systems for controlling lighting while occupancy is in place?those will not apply.?

K-9 phase out

Responding to a question during his city administrator?s report, Paine said it appears the local police department will be ending its drug-dog program following the departure of K-9 officer Brad Richards, who is moving out of state.

?We don?t have anyone on the staff who is interested in being a dog handler,? Paine said. ?We are going through a process to find a suitable location where the dog can serve out his time doing the equivalent level of training that he?s had.?

Asked by Watson how much use the city received from the dog, Paine replied, ?I haven?t been out on patrol, so I don?t know. But I know one of the key uses has been doing a walk-through the school (lockers).

?That?s the kind of duty that the Marion County canine could do for us,? he added. ?We don?t necessarily need to have (our own drug dog) for that.?

In other business, the council approved the mayor?s appointment of Vickie Manuel to the Hillsboro Library Board.