MORAN — Moran officials still are trying to get their hands on just how much electric bills will increase for local customers and whether recent rate increases are enough to cover the higher costs to the city.
City Clerk Lori Evans spelled out the issue Monday for Moran City Council members at their regular monthly meeting.
Starting in December, when Westar renewed its electric contract with the city, Moran has known it will pay significantly more for electricity. To cover the added costs, council members approved an increase in base meter charges from $8 to $26 — regardless of whether the customer uses any electricity — as well as a one-cent per kilowatt hour rate increase.
Evans said Moran paid about $29,000 to Westar in February, compared to $21,000 a year ago.
Council members agreed to the higher meter charge because it would guarantee income, a necessity to meet the higher wholesale costs.
“There aren’t many ways to raise that kind of revenue with only 300 customers,” Evans told the Register.
The city has another problem.
As part of the new agreement, the city’s rate is now broken down from one bundled rate to one that accounts for electric generation as well as transmission costs. But Westar has been tardy in providing transmission costs to the city, Evans said.
That has forced Evans to use estimates when determining monthly electric bills for January and February.
The city only recently received its bill for transmission rates in December, she noted. That figure was within “a couple hundred dollars” of what Evans had estimated, about $4,500.
Evans noted that other communities were in much the same boat.
“This is standard for all of Westar’s wholesale customers,” she said.
Westar officials will meet with city leaders from Moran and other southeast Kansas communities March 16 to better spell out what the new energy contract means. Council members said they will decide soon whether to hire an energy consultant to assist the city with its electric rate analysis.
City Attorney Bret Heim also said he is looking at the new energy rates to determine whether Moran should pursue a complaint against Westar. He, like Evans, is waiting to see just how much the city’s electric rates will rise with the new transmission costs.
FOLLOWING A brief discussion, council members decided against changing its hookup fees policy for new electric and water customers. The city currently charges $75 for each new customer.
The council denied a waiver of the fee in February but decided Monday that it should look at such requests on a case-by-case basis.
COUNCIL MEMBER Jim Mueller said Moran should pursue a mutual aid agreement with neighboring towns in case of emergency.
He cited a hypothetical case in which a power outage hit the city while Moran employees were out of town for training.
“Do we have a policy in place for a neighboring town to help?” he asked.
The city does not, Evans replied, but does have a good-faith agreement with other communities to provide help when needed.
The issue should be clarified, Mueller said, because some communities are restricted from offering aide due to liability issues.