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home : stillwater journal : opinions/letters to the editor April 29, 2016

9/6/2013 8:40:00 AM
Municipally Owned Electrics

Nationwide Municipally owned electric power facilities (Muni's) number more than 2,000. Of that number about 1,400 serve communities that have population less than 10,000. It seems the larger the community, the more difficult it is to stand against the political influence of Investor Owned Utility (IOU) power companies who want the larger accounts.

Consider this, about 43 million Americans get their power from "Muni's" or about 14% of all power generated in the US. The largest is Los Angeles California. The national average Muni rate compared to "IOU" facilities is about 10% savings to the rate payer.

Stillwater's electric company does not meet this national average as it charges about 35% more than the rates paid by the rest of Oklahoma citizens. This is the result of years of evolution where it has turned into a backdoor taxation cash cow tool for the city council. It is used to fund bloated city government, big paychecks for them, with grand benefits and bonuses. This is on top of massive spending programs for new buildings and facilities. But that is another subject.

Today the city still owes $36 Million dollars and an additional $36 million dollars of borrowed GO Bonds will be placed on the next elections ballot for voters to approve. Think twice please, I know that I will not vote to approve this spending binge.

However, there is something in the brewing at the city that I will support on two conditions. It is the proposed electric power generation facility upgrade that may come to $70 million in Revenue Bonds. My conditions are simple.

(1.) The project should be revenue neutral. i.e. It doesn't cost the utility rate payer as it will be paid for by increased peak capacity payments from GRDA, our primary electric vendor and partner in power generation. Simply having this power available helps both of us.

(2.) Any excess in these payments that is above the bond payment should be placed in a restricted fund (rainy day) account. I don't expect this to be very large, but anything is better than nothing that we are doing now.

These conditions would provide Stillwater and our primary vendor with more reliable support for peak power demands and unexpected outages. It keeps our foot in the door as a small but real electric company while it builds needed assets for our community. It would be good and a smart thing to do - if they can do it.

Dennis Gronquist

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