The Trenton Board of Public Works has been expressing concern for some time about the Electric Department's declining reserve fund.
That concern grew to a higher level when figures showed the Electric Department, for the fiscal year ending April 30th, had expenses surpassing income by $796,000. Once depreciation is included, the loss for the fiscal year in the Electric Department was
The Electric Department's unrestricted cash has dropped below $1.3 million. There also is $188,000 of restricted cash.
Trenton Municipal Utilities Director, Chad Davis, said increased power costs were the major factor leading to the loss. He had anticipated results for April would improve the year-to-date figures, but there also was a loss for April. He said the April loss also was attributed largely to power costs. The April loss, before depreciation, was nearly $84,000. The loss, after depreciation, was over $115,000.
Davis said the wholesale power costs for April were higher than anticipated because a planned outage at Prairie States Unit 2 was longer than expected, there were unplanned outages at Prairie States Unit 1 and Iatan Unit 2, and natural gas and market prices were
higher than anticipated.
Davis said, although the loss for the past fiscal year was larger than anticipated, he still believes the rate structure and increase which takes effect June 1st are reasonable and should go into effect as planned.
Davis indicated the Missouri Public Utility Alliance is projecting fairly flat rates for the near term. However, Board of Public Works members expressed doubts. Board of Public Works members also stated a need to stop the declines in the reserve fund and to put money back into reserves. That included the possibility of looking at rates again.
Board Chairman, Robert Day, said a rate structure is needed to stop the bleeding and
put water back in the bucket. He noted some cities have month to month rate increase. Day also indicated the Electric Department's financial situation is really bothering the Board. Member Mark Cole said it cannot be put off anymore. He suggested considering adjustments every month or quarterly.
Chairman Day said the City Council needs to reconsider its policy of transferring funds from Trenton Municipal Utilities to the City's general fund. The City Council last year passed an ordinance calling for the transfer from TMU to the City's general fund to be
1% of the charges for services from the Electric, Water, and Wastewater funds as stated in the most recently completed audit of TMU. The ordinance also says the amount from the electric fund is less street lighting revenue.
The Electric Department's rate structure is expected to be among the topics when the Board of Public Works holds a strategic planning meeting on June 30th.
We told you earlier about the Electric Department's loss for the fiscal year ending April 30th.
The Water and Wastewater Departments had surpluses during the past fiscal year---even after depreciation. The Wastewater Department had a surplus of $167,000 while the Water Department had a surplus of $57,000.
Reserve funds showed the Water Department with nearly $827,000 in unrestricted and
$229,000 in restricted cash.
The Wastewater fund had $587,000 of unrestricted and $567,000 in restricted cash.
In action items, the Board of Public Works approved the purchase of a bucket truck for the Electric Department. The 2015 Ford is being purchased from Equipment Technology, LLC of Oklahoma City at a cost of slightly over $97,000 with a trade-in valued at $13,500. The company, ETI, offers service work from St. Joseph. It was considered the best bid among various options from 2 companies.
The Board of Public Works, approved a pole attachment agreement with Wanrac, LLC. The company will be able to make attachments to TMU utility poles for the company's
local fiber optic service. The attachment fee is $10 a year for each pole. The agreement is 15 years. The fiber optic service is to be between Trenton R-9 schools.
Around 100 poles are expected to be used.
Among other discussion at the Trenton Board of Public Works meeting, the water quality project at the water plant area has exceeded the deadline to have the work completed. However, water quality standards have been met during the past 2 quarterly tests.
A water quality standards report is being mailed with TMU utility bills this week.
The Board again discussed the status of work to be able to generate power locally when incoming purchased power is curtailed. The south substation is ready for testing. However, more work is needed at the north substation. Testing would require power to be curtailed. TMU Director Davis indicated an internal test would be more expensive than prudent. The cost to produce electricity locally is estimated at $3,000 thousand to $6,000 an hour or more depending on the price of fuel.
A retirement reception for David Mlika is Friday from 11 until 1 o'clock at the water plant.