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Utility rates approved, Whitney named clerk

WHITNEY

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission on Monday unanimously confirmed the Marquette Board of Light and Power’s previous adoption of a 3.7% decrease in total cost recovery beginning Oct. 1.

The MBLP had adopted the rate design on Aug. 4.

In a letter to the commission, MBLP Executive Director Tom Carpenter noted the utility had not adjusted its electric utility rates since October 2016, with the utility since having undergone “significant changes” in operations that have impacted operating costs and capital requirements.

The results of a Utility Financial Services study, presented to the MBLP at its July 28 board meeting, indicate the utility can effectively operate with less revenue than is being collected. The primary drivers for the change, Carpenter said, are the retirement of the Shiras Steam Plant and the efficient operations of the Marquette Energy Center.

Carpenter spoke to the commission via phone on Monday.

“Going back a few years to the decision to shut the Shiras Stream Plant off, we found ways to operate (in) a much more efficient manner,” Carpenter said. “With the new power plant, we’re able to dispatch our power supply in ways we never have before and take advantage of low natural gas prices and also low market prices out in the open market for wholesale power, and pass those savings back onto the customers.”

Carpenter noted that over the last three years, the MBLP has passed back over $4 million in savings.

However, Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill expressed concern over rates going up for some users.

“The particular meters that you would be most concerned about are the low-power users, maybe a small house or small apartment, and that would be our U1 and R1 rate class,” said Carpenter, who pointed out that the R1 class of residential homes outside the city limits would stay the same with a $24 monthly meter charge, while the U1 class of residential homes within the city limits would go from $16.50 per month to $17.

Monthly charges are made to create equitable cost of service for the energy and services that are provided, Carpenter said, with 70% or 80% of the MBLP’s revenue being fixed costs.

“We need to be able to recover an appropriate amount of that in fixed fees,” Carpenter said. “So, if there’s a customer out there that even uses one kilowatt-hour of electricity, there’s still a cost to that.”

Carpenter said the MBLP performs rate studies on a three- to five-year basis, but rates are not expected to be touched again until 2024.

Commissioner Evan Bonsall said he is excited about the new rates.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing for the community, and as you noted, even the lower-power consumers aren’t really going to be significantly worse off here anyway,” Bonsall told Carpenter. “In fact, many of them or most of them may come out ahead with the reduced per-kilowatt hour fee.”

New city clerk appointed

Marquette Deputy Clerk Kyle Whitney will be the new city clerk effective Sept. 1.

The commission on Monday approved City Manager Mike Angeli’s appointment of Whitney in the position now held by Kris Hazeres, who announced her retirement effective Aug. 31.

Whitney has worked for the city for nearly seven years, the last five as deputy city clerk. He is certified as a state of Michigan accredited election official as well as a municipal clerk and Michigan municipal clerk.

Whitney has worked alongside Hazeres to oversee the staffing and organization of more than a dozen elections, amend and update the Marquette City Code and perform routine business of the clerk’s office.

As deputy clerk in 2019, he contributed to a statewide work group aimed at creating absentee balloting best practices for Michigan election coordinators.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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