Trenton City Council holds heated discussion on electric rates, ends in vote to reduce rates by 5%

City of Trenton Website

The Trenton City Council last night voted to authorize a 5% reduction in electric rates effective with the bills received in November, and the council ultimately voted to have an electric rate study done, but not until after the Mayor vetoed two separate motions.

Last week, the utility committee advanced discussion on having a three-month cash reserve for all three Trenton Municipal Utility departments, electric, water, and sewer, as well as the rate study. As the topic was presented last night to the city council, Mayor Nick McHargue again cited what he called excessive profits the city is making in the electric department, as much as $3,200,000 was cited in reserve or unrestricted funds.

Seven members of the city council were present last night with Travis Elbert absent.

After much discussion, David Mlika made a motion that passed six to one to enact a 5% reduction in electric rates as of November. That amounts to an estimated $450,000 reduction in electric department revenue for a year. Glen Briggs was opposed saying he wanted to have a study done on the electric rates which he feels would allow an unbiased entity to present the facts, as he put it, for the council to make a better-informed decision.

There even was a suggestion to refer back to the utility committee, the issue of whether to have a rate study. Lou Fisher objected noting the utility committee had forwarded the rate study and the requested three months operating reserves to the council and it was time for the council to make a decision.

A motion was eventually made by Fisher to have a $2,000,000 reserve for the electric department and conduct a rate study. If the study came back different, Fisher said an adjustment in rates could be made then. The motion passed five to two with Larry Porter and Brad Chumbley opposed. Mayor McHargue announced a veto. An effort was made to override the veto which was the same five to two vote, but it failed since six affirmative votes are needed to override a veto.

Later, a motion was made to only do the rate study. That motion passed six to one with Chumbley opposed. Mayor McHargue again vetoed the decision. The council took up the veto override which, this time, passed on a roll call vote with all seven council members voting to override, thus authorizing a study of electric rates.

It was noted by Comptroller Rosetta Marsh that Burns and McDonnell engineering firm did a financial analysis of electric rates in 2014 providing TMU with a spreadsheet for calculations. She told the council the anticipated cost of a rate study is $15,000. Prior to all of the votes, the council was presented with a consulting firms guidelines on factors to consider about minimum cash reserves for an electric utility. These include operating and maintenance expense, purchased power costs, debt payments, and a five-year capital plan.

The five percent rate reduction authorized by the council is in addition to the lower electric rates that TMU has for the winter months; beginning in November.

The Trenton City Council last night adopted five ordinances and a resolution, approved demolition of four houses, and heard several reports.

The resolution shows the city of Trenton’s support of the Main Street approach to stimulate economic development and preservation for downtown Trenton. An agreement was given to Asplundh Tree Expert for tree trimming around the electric lines at a cost of UP to $24,000.

An agreement was approved with Burns and McDonnel for changes in the progressive design-build wastewater projects, specifically for the headworks phase. The engineering firm listed the cost of their services at $240,000.

Approval was given by ordinance to Larkin, Lamp, and Rynearson to engineer waterline improvements on 8th, 9th, and Kumler Streets for $21,500.

An ordinance was adopted allowing the city to be reimbursed via the Department of Conservation grant for two Promatic trap machines for use at the Trenton trap and skeet range. The cost for the replacement machines comes in at $13,146.

The council voted to release all city interest in the plat known as the Crimson Heights sub-division in eastern Trenton. It was platted with the recorder of deeds in Grundy county in April 1999 but was never developed.

An announcement was made that Larry Smith has been promoted to police lieutenant and assistant chief. Jeff Spencer has resigned as a police officer effective Thursday.

Councilman Larry Crawford questioned the council decision from two weeks ago in awarding a bid of nearly $50,000 to D R Petroleum of Chillicothe for installing fuel lines at the north TMU substation. Crawford did not attend the council meeting then. His motion last night to re-visit the decision passed unanimously. Administrator Ron Urton is to check with the company to see if they’ve started any work

After talking with a salvage dealer and one other interested person, Urton recommended, and the council approved, posting the old 1985 ladder fire truck for an online auction via the Purple Wave website.

After action earlier in the evening by the Trenton Building and Nuisance Board, the city council approved the selection of Advanced Environmental of Belton for asbestos removal from four structures that are to be torn down. Six companies submitted bids.

Three of the owners are working with the city to have structures demolished and pay all but $1,750 apiece on the cost. These are at 1402 East 9th (Greg Freeman), 1502 Day (Danny Stevens), and 119 Kavanaugh (David Johnson). The other location to be torn down entirely at city expense is within a block from city hall and include 111 West 11th Street (Tammy Posey).

The total amount the city is spending to go toward demolition and asbestos abatement is $14,803, which is under the budgeted figure of $20,000. 402 East 12th Street remains on the demolition list for next time as there were not enough funds left to have it taken down this year.