Highland News Leader

Electric rate hike approved for Highland customers

For the first time in two decades, city of Highland power customers will be paying more for electricity.

The Highland City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 5 to raise rates. Residential customers per-month meter charge went from $6 to $9 per month. Commercial customers meter charges went from $12 to $18, and industrial went from $25 to $37.50. Energy usage rates went up 4 percent across the board.

For the typical residential customer, the increases would mean about an extra $5 to $9 per month on their bill, depending on usage.

The council also adjusted rates for things such as rental lighting, demand charges for non-profit organizations and attachment charges for other utilities to under build their lines on city-owned poles.

In total, all the rate hikes will increase the Light & Power Department’s annual revenue by about $710,665.

“The city has not adjusted the electric rates for the past 20 years. However, the Operations and Maintenance costs for the department have increased by 50 percent over the same time frame (to almost $3 million today),” Director of Light & Power Dan Cook said in a memo to city council members. “It is important for the city to continue investing in the system infrastructure in order to preserve the system reliability or degradation will take over.”

The council authorized a “cost of service study” to be performed earlier this year to assess the department’s financial well-being. The study found out that, without rate adjustments, revenue and cash reserves would fall below recommended levels. Also, proper investment in infrastructure improvements could not take place and the reliability of the system could be compromised.

“The suggested adjustments to the electric rates and the rental lighting provisions will assist in restoring the system to good financial health,” Cook said.

City staff had suggested larger increases, but council members balked at those suggestions at their November meeting.

The city has 5,768 residential, 652 commercial, and 155 industrial customers.

Other Council Action

City approves pool rental for SJH

HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital-Highland and the city have renewed their pool rental agreement for one year at the Korte Rec Center. The purpose of the agreement is to provide aquatic therapy to the hospital’s patients. Previously, the council approved an identical agreement from March 1, 2014 to March 1, 2015 and again through March 1, 2016.

New Silver Lake boat ramp off limits

The council also approved an ordinance that restricts public access to the emergency boat ramp and oil containment infrastructure at Silver Lake, reserving these areas for city use only. 

“After the oil spill happened in 2015, a discussion was held to review protection of the city’s water source. It was determined that a need existed for access to the lake north of I-70,” said City Manager Mark Latham in a memo to city council members. “Plains Oil Company agreed to pay for the construction of a new boat ramp and garage as well as the purchase of a new boat and oil containment equipment for use in the event of another oil release into or near the lake.”

Latham said the Silver Lake Advisory Commission reviewed the plans and voted to recommend that the area should be maintained for city use only, not for public access to the lake.

No funding was necessary to approve the ordinance.

Broken set-top boxes to be recycled

The council also approved the disposal of non-working set-top boxes (STB), per request from Angela Imming, director of technology and innovation for the city.

There are currently 381 non-working STBs that Highland Communications Services (HCS) has in its possession.

Each one was reported as non-functioning by a HCS customer.

NILO TECH, a recycling company, will come to the site and haul the STBs to a recycling center, where they will be destroyed in an environmentally responsible manner.

There is no cost to have them hauled or destroyed.

New vehicle approved for B&Z

The council also approved the purchase of a new midsized sport utility vehicle from Tri Ford in Highland for $22,950.

The SUV is for the Building & Zoning Department and will replace the department’s 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4x4, which has more than 82,849 miles. The vehicle is currently in need of repairs, has become a safety concern, and can no longer be utilized for transportation to out-of-city training or meetings.

This item was budgeted last fiscal year but was not purchased.

Motor Fuel Taxes appropriated

The council also approved appropriating $255,000 of the Motor Fuel Tax fund for the purpose of maintaining streets and highways. The money will be used for snow and ice control, pavement replacing and patching, pavement marking, seal coating oil-and-chip streets, and replacing signs. The appropriation is for Feb. 1, 2017 until Jan. 31, 2018.

City seeks county loan for parks

The council approved a resolution making a loan between the Madison County Parks and Recreation Loan Program and the city part of the city’s general obligation debt. The resolution was a requirement of the loan. The loan will be paid back using the annual Madison County Park Enhancement Program (PEP) grant.