Amy Cunningham
With a unanimous vote Gardner Electric Utility Board members approved a 2012 budget that will see energy rates remain steady for the third year in a row.
“I want to emphasize that the budget does not include an increase in electric rates,” electric utility director Bill Krawczyk told the board.
According to Krawczyk, the budget would be presented at the city council meeting the following evening. He told the group that, without their approval, he would hold off on presenting a budget to council.
Krawczyk and Brandon McCollum, Gardner Energy distribution supervisor, laid out some of the goals that utility hopes to achieve in 2012, including: improving the system load factor, purchasing selected Kansas City Power and Light customers who live within the city of Gardner, completing system upgrades such as replacing defective poles and replacing cable in Parma and Conestoga. Gardner Energy plans to complete as many of these improvements as possible without the use of contractors.
“We’ve been spending money the last couple of years and buying equipment so that we can use our employees to (complete the work) instead of using contractors,” stated Krawczyk.
Currently the utility employs 16.3 employees. Krawczyk explained to board members that .3 employees represent a summer intern that works for the utility. The proposed budget shows funds for adding an additional intern as well as an electrical engineer and one maintenance person in 2012.
The group plans to have a surplus of $125,000 at the end of 2012.
Board member Eric Schultz complemented the board for reviewing numbers monthly rather than once a year, saying that it helped to streamline the budgeting process.
“I approve of the chairman’s suggestion that we review this on a monthly basis – it is a lot less daunting because we see these numbers on a monthly basis,” he said.
Board members also agreed to allow the electric director to execute an amendment to the original agreement the utility had to purchase power from Omaha Public Power District. This amendment will provide the utility with power and capacity through 2018. Initially agreements between the two utilities were negotiated with the idea of Gardner Energy providing power to the intermodal facility; because the utility will not service the intermodal they will not need the large amount the original agreements called for.
“The overall benefit is a two-year savings of $1.5 million dollars and for the next five years, through 2018 provides a savings of almost $500,000 a year,” Krawczyk explained to board members.
In other business the board:
* approved a Gardner Energy clothing policy revision to cover two new positions added since the previous policy was put into place. They agreed to increase the maximum allowance for boots from $120 to $150 and increase the number of jeans allocated from three to five pair per employee.
* learned about the utility’s sponsorship of the Johnson County Fair. The utility plans to become a Grand Champion-level sponsor by trading out labor and the use of a truck for an in-kind donation to the fair.