While thousands of Independence Power & Light customers are past due on their bills – some of them 90 or more days past – there will be no residential customers cut off before Christmas.

Assistant City Manager and Utilities Director Mark Randall said Monday the handful of industrial and commercial customers who are long overdue will be the first faced with potential shut-offs.

Two weeks ago, city officials said that of approximately 57,000 utility customers, more than 18,000 were in arrears – about $10.3 million worth of delinquent payments – and 5,000 of those are more than 90 days past due. That latter group would be the first faced with power shut-offs this week, the city said at the time.

The city's cold-weather policy would have meant no immediate residential shut-offs, Randall said, but more importantly, “We want people to set up some kind of payment plan.”

The city had issued a shut-off moratorium a few months ago and abated late fees as it sorted through various issues related to a new billing system – rolled out just as the peak usage rates took effect – and commissioned audits to see if bills were being calculated correctly. Many customers had cried foul about high bills, wondering if the billing system was flawed, and the audits found no miscalculations.

Customers with questions about their account or who want to set up a repayment plan call 816-325-7930, email utilitycustomerservice@indepmo.org or visit customer service at the Utilities Center, 17221 E. 23rd St.

IPL FINANCES: As several potential costly decisions related to Independence Power & Light loom, the city's independent financial consultant says IPL is in good financial shape to tackle those expenditures.

When the city last had its electric revenue bonds rated in 2016 by the Standard & Poor’s rating agency, it received and “A/stable” mark in part because of lower cash reserves and lessening fixed-cost coverage. “Stable” meant unlikely to change in the next six months to two years. “AAA” is the highest possible rating.

The City Council could well decide soon about closing the Blue Valley Power Plant, but to do so it would have to purchase power capacity to replace it. Also, the council could decide to go ahead with automated utility “smart meters” – a large up-front expense that could pay for itself several years down the road – and will have to decide whether to continue maintenance on the city's combustion turbines.

Using S&P's calculation methods, Springsted Incorporated says IPL now has more than adequate bonding capacity, is “strong” with cash reserves and “very strong” with fixed-cost coverage.

In short, Springsted Chairman Dave MacGillivray told the council Monday, “I don't see a financial reason to not consider it” with regard to pursuing new power capacity to replace Blue Valley.

“Are they still there? We don't think so,” MacGillivray said of S&P's concerns two years ago. “Whatever that period was, you seem to be through it.”

City officials estimate IPL will have about $40 million in cash reserves at the end of the fiscal year, not counting some contingency money set aside for smart meters.

“We can draw down (for smart meters) and still have at least 90 days,” City Manager Zach Walker said.

Council Member Scott Roberson said it will be important to consider the city's bond rating with the three big decisions.

“When we make one decision, it's going the affect the others,” he said.

MacGillivray said potential future savings from smart meters are considered in bond ratings.

“In and of itself, automated metering is seen as a net positive for credit rating,” he said.