The Utilites Committee had a variety of items to discuss during its June 4 meeting. The biggest issue at hand was what to do about the utility rate study currently being conducted by Sawvel and Associates.
City Auditor Brian Treisch informed the committee the city received a preliminary report for electric but is still waiting for water and sewer. In the meantime, he is doing an internal analysis and looking at a slightly different rate structure to consider.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said there is not enough information to do much with, but felt they should not wait for reports on the water and sewer portions, as there is no telling how long they will take.
Committee Chair Mike Richart agreed. “We need to make these adjustments. This has been dragging on way too long,” he stated.
It is now a matter of whether or not to wait for further information. Originally, the city hoped to bring a representative from Sawvel to attend a workshop meeting to cover the report in detail. Because there is a cost to do so, Richart said he would prefer to do all three utilities at once. No consensus was made that evening on how to proceed.
Still on the subject of electricity, Richart informed the committee that he has been in contact with Efficiency Smart. Earlier in the year, the city renewed a contract with the company to help make Galion more energy efficient.
There will be a series of meetings between Efficiency Smart and the city department heads this month. On June 25, the company will begin an energy audit for the city, including the lighting at all city-owned buildings. Aug. 21 and 22 will be customer appreciation days; free lightbulbs will be handed out at the Utility Office (see below for more details).
Dan Bute, Utility Office manager, also gave an update on the new online bill pay feature. The city began offering it to customers on May 1. Bute reported that 438 accounts were opened in the first month, both residential and commercial. There was just over $59,000 worth of payments.
Richart also announced there are new EPA mandates for coal plants. He has been in contact with American Municipal Power, which is looking into the effects of the mandates. He said he would continue to follow up with the subject.
The mayor pointed out that the state governments are required to form the plans to meet the new standards. He suggested inviting both of Galion’s Ohio General Assembly representatives to town, in order to inform them of Galion’s view of public power.
The city receives its power from multiple sources, one of which is a coal-fired plant called Prairie State Energy Campus. The plant made news headlines recently after an unexpected outage with one of its two producing units.
According to a press release from the company dated May 28, Unit 2 was taken offline on May 24 for scheduled maintenance when “a water storage tank overflowed resulting in an unexpectedly high release of steam and water that damaged the siding and associated equipment. All of the employees and workers on site are safe. No explosion, fire or injuries occurred.”
The unit is expected to be back online and producing electricity some time this summer. For more information, various news agencies reported on the situation, including The Columbus Dispatch and the Columbia Daily Tribune.
On an unrelated topic, Treisch announce that the city has been on the new VIP system for all accounting software for one week. It is used strictly for internal accounting, not utility billing. Treisch said there were some startup glitches but it has been a great tool so far. He credited his staff, Nicole Webster and Darrin Hammock, for getting the system implemented.
O’Leary said the sanitary sewer system is still experiences flooding issues. Part of the problem is that residential storm sewers are still tied into it. Ironically, new storm sewers have been built in many areas of the city but people are not tying in. In the coming months, the city will be developing a rebate or loan program to incentivize residents to tie into the new sewers.
The Utilities Committee’s next meeting is July 2 at 7 p.m.