Former EUB Member
Mayor Morrow and City Administrator take two steps back.
With the help and direction of the Electric Utility Board (EUB) over these past four years, Gardner Energy has put itself in a position where the electric rates of Gardner are extremely competitive and have fluctuated minimally.
Gardner Energy has been proactive in making sure they take care of their equipment to lower their maintenance costs. They have gone to an equipment leasing program for many of their vehicles so they can budget more effectively for the future. Because of this, GE has reliable equipment to make sure they keep the electricity in Gardner continually flowing.
GE seldom uses contractors anymore. In the past this was a common occurrence that came at a great expense to the people of Gardener. Now instead of using expensive contractors they have invested in equipment and hired people who complete these projects internally. I have seen over these past 4 years the employees of Gardner Energy going above and beyond to make due with what they have. I believe them to be very cautious and respectful with the funds they have received from the people of Gardner. GE has a budget that is reviewed by the EUB monthly, it is firm and it is stuck to.
In addition to cutting costs and working smarter the EUB and GE have planned for the future of Gardner. GE has already built two electrical feeder lines across the freeway, on the north and south side of 175th street, with the hopes of additional business eventually coming to Gardner. GE welcomes the thought of new business in Gardner so we wanted to make sure the electricity was accessible to any project as soon as possible.
As a former member of the Electric Utility Board, I feel one of the most important thing we did was set up two reserve funds. One reserve fund is specific for disasters. For example, if a tornado rolled through Gardner there would be huge costs to the citizens in repairing the city’s electrical system. After reviewing and estimating the cost of such a disaster the EUB and the staff of GE approved a policy setting aside around $3 million in a fund to cover such costs. In addition to this fund a second reserve fund was set up to cover large equipment failures. Again after much review we set up a policy to have around $3 million to cover disastrous equipment failure. If you’ll remember not too long ago the Gardner sky lit up when a raccoon started one of the substations on fire, it can easily happen.
These reserve funds are set up so that if there is a disaster or large equipment failure it wouldn’t be a sudden burden to the people of Gardner to cover it with a large rate increase.
All this being said, I am extremely concerned about the future of this program. The EUB has been instrumental in assisting Gardner Energy to get things to the point they are now. On Monday there is a proposed ordinance which strips the EUB of any authority and places it back with the city council.
In my opinion the reason for such action is the city sees the emergency reserve money and wants access to it. Those reserve funds are there for citizens of Gardner’s benefit, they are there in case of an emergency. At this point I do not have the confidence in our Mayor or this City Council to manage Gardner Energy with the detail it needs, this is exactly why the EUB was created in the first place.
Lastly, if the city administrator and Mayor Morrow feel that the current reserve amounts are excessive I demand the excess be returned to the people of Gardner! My hope is this ordinance is tabled and more thought is put into the future of Gardner Energy.
It boggles my mind that when something is working, the government (even our local government) wants more regulatory powers. If it’s not broke don’t try to fix it.