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District selects co-op over City utility

Dennis Horner, City of New Richmond administrator and utility manager, presented his case for providing power to the new schools before the New Richmond School Board Monday night.

Horner and his colleagues suggested that the City utility company had exclusive rights to provide the new schools with power and would "be there" to do so. He and Wes Arndt, energy service representative with Wisconsin Public Power, and Ken Cernohous, City Utilities Commission president, also informed the Board that the City's prices are among the lowest in the area and not subject to unexpected and prohibitive changes.

Despite Horner's and his co-worker's best efforts, the School Board voted to accept a proposal from St. Croix Electric Coop for their energy needs.

"We are very disappointed," Horner said. "Now we will talk to the Utilities Commission and hopefully see which road to take from here."

One road the City is looking at would be to go before the Public Service Commission to determine if they have exclusive rights to provide power to the new schools.

Both St. Croix Electric Coop and the City Utilities have asserted that they believe they have those exclusive rights.

One way to decide the issue for good is for the Public Service Commission to render a decision.

Mark Pendergast, president and CEO of St. Croix Electric Coop, also presented his proposal to the School Board Monday. Although he believes his company has the legal exclusive right to serve the new high school, he said he would prefer that the School Board choose their power provider rather than have the Public Service Commission become involved.

Both Pendergast and Horner said no matter what the decision, they would both be able to provide temporary power to the site so construction could continue.

Pendergast said that based on the "economic disparity in the costs" he heard at the meeting, he would "strongly encourage the City of New Richmond Utilities to do the right thing for all the taxpayers in the School District."

"By consenting to St. Croix Electric Cooperative providing electric service and installing a wind generator at no cost to the School District," Pendergast said, "it's projected the District will save at least $40,000 to $45,000 a year in electric costs compared with the proposal made by the City Utilities."

Part of Pendergast'ss winning proposal includes putting a 10,000 Watt wind generator on the school site as a teaching tool.

Pendergast said it is within the power of the two utilities to reach an agreement on this matter and to avoid the City filing an action with the Public Service Commission.

The bottom line

St. Croix Electric presented prices to the School Board of $203,000 per year as an estimated bill for electrical power. This is at a cost of .0872 kilowatt hours.

New Richmond Utilities proposed an estimated cost of $226,000 per year for electricity with a charge of .0948 kilowatt hour.

If the School District puts in an interruptible generator, which it plans to do, the cost from St. Croix Electric drops to $143,000 estimated per year for electricity and .0617 per kilowatt hour.

If the generator is installed by the School District, the City Utilities would drop their estimated price for electricity to $220,000 per year and the cost per kilowatt hour would remain the same. However, the City would rebate or discount about $6,000 per year on the electricity costs if the interruptible generator is installed.

After much discussion, the Board voted to accept St. Croix Electric Coop's proposal.