It’s hard to see right now if Independence is making meaningful progress on electric service issues. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen three main developments – one positive, one puzzling and one distressing.
The positive move is that the City Council has at last cleared the way to close the Blue Valley plant on Truman Road in about a year. It’s not often in use, but keeping it ready to fire up is a major expense. The city has studied and debated this for a long time, has identified an alternative source of power, and hopefully can lower overall Independence Power & Light costs.
The puzzling move is about rates. The council has followed last December’s 2 percent rate cut with a 4 percent cut coming in August – but done so before the full version of the long-delayed cost-of-service study is released. We’re now told the study, which was supposed to come out in 2018, will be released in August.
Here’s the thing: It’s not just that IPL rates are too high. It’s that they’re too complex and hit the community in different ways. One key issue is that rates are considered an impediment to attracting new business.
It might very well be that a cut of one level for residents and other cuts for industrial and commercial customers are justified, but how do we know until the study comes out? A preliminary version of the study, released in May, specifically called a 4 percent rate cut “not feasible and not recommended.” The council pushed ahead anyway, and the city says cuts already made at IPL will cover that.
That could be – and rate cuts are certainly desirable – but it would be better if all the cards were on the table first. What’s the case for across-the-board cuts before seeing all of the actual underlying numbers?
The distressing recent development is the departure of the IPL director after just six months. This comes after her predecessor quit about a year ago, also after a brief time on the job, frustrated over an inability to carry out the significant changes he was specifically hired to make.
What on Earth is going on here? City Hall isn’t saying much.
Power and Light should be an asset for this community, but it’s not performing particularly well in that regard. The service is good, but it costs too much – and we the community own it. Granted, getting from here to a better place is neither simple nor quick. But on too many big decisions the can has been kicked down the road again and again.
Oh, and election season is not far off. There was some thought 18 months ago that 2018 would be the year the city would make some generational decisions. That came and went. Where’s the assurance that a year from today the ratepayers will know that things have been set on a steady course toward reasonable outcomes?