Lamar Utility Board Delays Rate Hike

The automatic 2.5% rate hike, set to go in effect in June for Lamar Light and Power customers, will be deferred until November. Light plant superintendent Rick Rigel said the current finances and cash reserves are, “in pretty good shape right now.” Rigel added that the light plant is also receiving monthly payments of $26,000 from ARPA, Arkansas River Power Authority, against a back payment of $962,000. The board will review plant finances in July, by which point they’ll have a clearer view for any action by November. Rigel added the deferment will maintain the existing rate through the approaching higher usage months. The board’s decision was aided by news of available surplus federal hydro energy through Western Area Power Authority facilities.

The Bent county fire two weeks ago damaged almost a dozen power poles. Rigel told the board replacing them will prove to be a lengthy and expensive process. A lot of the poles were burned in a swampy, hard to reach area. The light plant will need to rent a special swamp ‘buggy’ available in Louisiana and pay to have it delivered and returned as well as a rental fee. Plant engineer Houssin Hourieh explained a plant employee will have to be checked out to operate the device and transport repairmen to the site during the replacement operation. Rigel and the board agreed that the plant should move ahead and do a complete upgrade on those cross arm poles and transmission lines, working from west to the east, where the 69kV substation and the eastern 13.8kV Las Animas line suffered fire damage.

Repair work continues on various sections of the coal plant, focusing on emissions and efficiency and the testing of boiler equipment design modifications. Rigel said this is the critical area, and once the schedule for delivery of materials has been set, a more firm schedule for an on-line date will be available, probably in June. Work has also begun on a financial summary of the repair work for submitting a preliminary insurance claim. The superintendent did not have a complete tally at this time, stating additional claims will continue to accrue.

Rigel informed the board a settlement had been negotiated with the State Air Pollution Control Division on a Consent Order of Compliance for permit violations in part of 2009 and to the end of 2010. He said there was consideration for the plant’s willingness to take the light plant off line when it was recognized some emissions limits had been exceeded, and the B & W engineering firm began to develop acceptable plans to curtail the emissions. Rigel stated any penalties involved will be used in the plant’s supplemental environmental project in which the plant will have 60 days to draft and submit a project for Division review. A meeting with ARPA representatives developed several options and costs for an energy efficiency plan. Rigel said one choice involved plans to help benefit ARPA member cities with their street lighting.

In other action, Rigel said Lamar Light and Power will host their school-oriented Science Expo May 2 through May 12 for over 800 area elementary students. The plant is continuing its Summer Youth Employment Program for eight to ten weeks, beginning June 1. Students between 18 and 21 years of age have until May 16 to submit an application for four trainee positions for summer employment.


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