Amy Cunningham
Gardner’s Electric Utility Board members took a brief break at the start of their meeting to witness fellow board member Ryan Beasley and new appointee Mark Baldwin’s swearing in during the city council meeting Tuesday evening.
Member Eric Schultz who, like Beasley, has also been reappointed to the board, was away on business and unable to attend the ceremony.
Beasley has been a member of the board since its inception two years ago, but, according to Mayor Dave Drovetta, when the board was created, officials decided to stagger the terms of appointees.  From here on out appointees will serve four years before seeking reappointment.  Baldwin, Beasley and Schultz will serve on the board until February of 2015.
New member Mark Baldwin has been a resident of Gardner since 2003.  Drovetta said that Baldwin interviewed for a position on the board when a seat was vacated by Brian Broxterman, who left when he was appointed to the city council last spring.  Shultz received Broxterman’s seat and fulfilled the remainder of his term.  Drovetta called Baldwin a highly regarded candidate and felt he was a natural addition for the opening created by the retirement of Vernon Pickert.
The mayor also acknowledged the departure of Pickert from the board at the expiration of his term in February.
“Vern Pickert is retiring yet again from public service,” the mayor noted.  Pickert, a well-respected, long-time resident, has served on the city council as well as numerous boards and committees in the Gardner community.
“We thank you very much, again, for that service,” the mayor said with a smile as audience members applauded Pickert’s years of devotion to the city.
Following the ceremony, utility board members gathered again to conduct their regularly scheduled meeting. The city’s electric director Bill Krawczyk recommended that the board entertain the idea of selling a gas line located at 183rd Street and Cedar Niles Road.
He said the city has faced substantial costs imposed by the Kansas Corporation Commission when the line was found to be out of compliance.
“The city has spent $20,000 to $25,000 getting (into compliance),” Krawczyk said.  “…We still have another $75,000 in compliance costs, we estimate, between now and the end of this year.”
According to Krawczyk, Kansas Gas already made one offer on the line.  That offer was rejected because it didn’t meet the requirements of the city.
However the company has put together a stronger offer, which Krawczyk recommended the board consider at a future meeting. He said that Kansas Gas has offered $40,000 to the city to purchase the line.  Along with that purchase price, the company will  require the city to pay $27,000 per year for the next 10 years to Kansas Gas in transmission fees.
Krawczyk said there are several intangible costs that the board must consider when deciding whether or not to sell the line; Staffing, maintenance, and testing costs that currently total about $7,500 per year, and the city’s liability should something go wrong with the line will need to  be factored into the decision.
In other business:
• The group discussed filling three open positions at the utility including two lineman apprentice jobs and one journeyman job in the coming weeks.
• The board addressed the city’s participation in the Take Charge Challenge, an energy efficiency challenge that pits Gardner against three other northeastern Kansas towns.
• Krawczyk said that preliminary results show that the department came in significantly under budget in 2010.  He said that final utility receipts for 2010 were not yet due into the city and that final numbers will be available in the coming weeks.
• In the future the group will consider adding educational information to utility bills to educate the public on how the utility works and to promote items of interest to customers.
• The board may consider installing hard power to be used by the Festival on the Trails.