The Independence City Council wrapped up several weeks of 2010-11 budget study sessions Monday night with several of the department’s largest budgets.

The Independence City Council wrapped up several weeks of 2010-11 budget study sessions Monday night with several of the department’s largest budgets.

Trends were reported in several departments, as well as projections for future projects. Among those departments reported include:

 Power & Light Department: Annual energy sales decreased from 2008 to 2009 because of the economic conditions and customers’ energy conservation, according to Leon Daggett, director of Independence Power & Light. Purchased power and fuels, as well as production, comprise nearly 75 percent of the department’s operating budget. These costs help generate power that is sold to IPL’s customers.

“This cost is not very flexible nor do we have that much control over it,” Daggett said. “When our citizens want electricity, we have to provide it.”

The department cut $500,000 in certain material costs and eliminated about $1 million in production operating expenses. However, Daggett said, fuel and purchased power costs are estimated to continue increasing because of higher natural gas and coal costs, as well as decreased wholesale purchased power.

Power & Light is now undergoing a green initiative funded through more than $1 million in energy efficiency and conservation block grants. The plan includes replacing about 50 city street lights from yellow, high-pressure sodium lights to white, LED lights by the end of May.

Independence Mayor Don Reimal asked whether Power & Light is prepared for the projected residential, commercial and industrial growth in eastern Independence.

“Absolutely,” Daggett said, adding that IPL hopes to gain a new gas turbine in Independence in the next year, “which will help with the load. We’re being progressive to make sure we’re ahead.”

 Community Development Department: Transportation through the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is included within this department. In the 445,000 Independence bus trips that KCATA has provided so far in 2010, a “dramatic shift” has taken place from intercity trips (to and from Kansas City) to intracity trips (transportation within Independence).

According to Jennifer Clark, Community Development Department director, the data usually show about 40 percent of trips taking place within Independence and 60 percent of trips taking place to Kansas City. In 2010, 75 percent of trips have taken place within Independence city limits, she said.

As the city receives the data quarterly from the KCATA, staff will evaluate if the trend shifts back during the summer months, Clark said.

“Initially, we believe that is a reaction to the economy and that people are taking more trips internally within a city either because they don’t have transportation or they don’t have employment and they need the access to the stores,” Clark said. 

Reimal also asked Clark if the Community Development Department is prepared for anticipated growth in eastern Independence.

“We have worked really hard in the last couple years to improve our processes so that we’re ready for the next wave,” Clark said. “We’ve cleared out old permits. We’re getting our staff ready and trained to be able to start evaluating and processing permits as quickly as they come through.”

“I’m hoping that this is going to break loose when we get those roadways done,” Reimal replied, referring to projects like Little Blue Parkway.    

Community Development reported that it plans to initiate a second season of the Inde*bus shuttle service for the 2010 winter holiday shopping season.