Council considers variable electric rates

Staff writer

Residents will have more time before seeing an increase in electric bills. Marion City Council members voted Monday to look into an option for a variable increase proposed by city administrator Roger Holter, one of four plans he proposed Monday’s meeting.

All plans would increase base rates from $6 to $8 for residential residents and from $7 to $10 for commercial customers. One option would raise rates per kilowatt-hour from .1070 cents to .1175 cents, with an energy cost adjustment added to bills based on monthly variable costs from Kansas Power Pool.

Depending on the charges from KPP, the cost adjustment could add either a credit or a charge to bills each month. According to numbers provided by Holter, the range of payment adjustments for an average residential user based on last year’s consumption rates if this plan had been in place would have been as low as a $2.83 credit to as high as a $6.67 charge.

“Last year the increase would have only been 1.3 cents after adding up each month’s variable costs, but based on KPP’s projections for the coming year, I don’t see many credits happening this next year,” Holter said.

The rate change would add an average $10.05 to residents’ bills each month before the cost adjustment is factored in. Council members were skeptical of the variable rate structure.

“I would rather know what I have to pay,” council member Todd Heitschmidt said.

When asked if the city had the programs to figure bills in a variable manner, Becky Makovec said the program the city currently uses is not set up adequately for that kind of process.

“It takes a lot of playing around to get it to work,” she said. “I don’t want the customers to not trust us because of incorrect billing.”

Chris Meierhoff and Jerry Kline also expressed concerns with the variable rate system.

“I’m for option number one because I like to know what my bill is each month,” Mayor Mary Olson said.

Option one called for the same base rate change and an increase per kilowatt-hour from .1070 cents to .1220 cents.

After receiving no seconds on motions by Olson for either option one or two, council grudgingly voted to pursue option three with a 4-1 vote, with Kline voting against the variable option.

“I want more time to gather information,” he said. “This is tough. Some cannot afford to pay much. I just do not know the answer.”

“This is going to be a tough decision to make up $250,000 in increases,” Holter said. “Last month I had to pay $22,000 out of our reserve fund. This month it looks like that number will be between $28,000 to $32,000.”

The council also heard presentations about a previously passed no-parking ordinance but decided to take no formal action until the next meeting.

Margaret Wilson, who lives on Elm St., told the council about the perils of driving down the street during times of congestion.

“I have lived on Elm St. for 22 years,” she said. “Parking on both sides of the street has created a traffic hazard. I have narrowly missed several car doors and a child who ran out into the street. Elm St. is not designed for that sort of parking.”

She said she has counted more than 15 children living within one block of the street.

“If emergency vehicles needed to get to one of them, would they get through?” she said.

Daren Neufeld, who also lives on Elm St., agrees with Wilson.

“When two cars are parked on each side of the street, it’s difficult to get through, but it rarely happens any other time but a Sunday service,” he said.

Andrew Brunner of EBH Engineering proposed the council consider amending the ordinance to only prohibit parking on the west side of Elm St. from Main St. to Denver St. from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

“Being a business on the street, we’ve discussed this with the churches and Ty Zeiner and feel like this would solve the parking problems along Elm St., Brunner said. “During Sunday service is really the only time people park on both sides of the street.”

Wilson’s block, which she says is congested due to residential traffic, will not be included in the ordinance. Police Chief Tyler Mermis said he would attempt to address the problem without an ordinance.

The council voted to repeal the no-parking ordinance from 1976 to take care of conflicting ordinances banning parking on both sides of Elm St., and pass an ordinance that identifies no-parking zones throughout the city.

“Some places had incorrect signs; some didn’t have signs,” Mermis said.

The repealed ordinance laid out all current no-parking zones, the new ordinance maintains those zones, but removes no-parking zones from Elm St. The police department will replace the signs where needed.

In other business:

  • The council approved a payment to Middle Creek Construction for work on the Jex Addition sewer project for $86,447. A final payment will be made after the company completes patching streets and seeding.
  • Olson proclaimed April to be fair housing month.
  • The council passed a resolution to provide the city an exemption from generally accepted accounting principles.
  • The council passed an ordinance to allow a beer garden at Chingawassa Days.
  • The council agreed to meet at noon the third Wednesday of every month at the city building for a work session. The first session will discuss the budget. The sessions are open to the public.

 

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