Letter: Important to understand, prepare for FPB challenges

Dear editor, The recent columns by Frankfort Plant Board chair Anna Marie Pavlik Rosen which appeared in The State Journal served to underline one essential point: It’s complicated! Of all the ink that has been spilled on this dispute by the newspaper, very little has has been devoted to the actual issues which are involved. […]

The Frankfort Plant Board will be looking to overhaul its water and power metering system as well as rebate up to $1.6 million to customers with millions of dollars in savings from switching energy providers.

The subjects were among several initiatives broached Tuesday during the utility board’s first public discussion of its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. FPB staff revealed that it anticipates the transition from Kentucky Utilities (KU) to Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KyMEA) to yield almost $4 million in electricity savings for the 2019-20 fiscal year. 

FPB Chairwoman Anna Marie Pavlik Rosen said the idea behind the shift to KyMEA was to share the value with customers but how that would manifest was unclear.

“The money we collect for keeping our Plant Board moving forward is money we realize comes from our customers,” she said. “And we want to share the benefits of our good choices. A rebate is in our future, and we will be working out the details on that.”

FPB has yet to finalize its budget. Rosen said an exact amount or when customers could see the rebate would be determined later in the budget process.

Along with a rebate, FPB board members said the systemwide overhaul of the metering system, known as the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), would also benefit ratepayers in the long run. FPB General Manager Gary Zheng said that would come in the form of customers being able to watch their water and electric usage in real time and conserve utilities when necessary.

“We hope it changes our relationship with customers that are managing their finances different than us and feed in with what they need,” he said.

Zheng added that FPB will be able to detect outages in power or leaks in waterlines sooner with an upgraded system in order to serve customers more quickly.

According to FPB budget projections, operating revenues for the coming budget year — $102.038 million — are not significantly different than estimates for the current year — $102.056 million. What has changed is the projected operating expenses for FPB — from $70.18 million last year to $66.6 million this year — which is a direct result of switching to KyMEA for all electricity purchases.

The difference is outlined in the estimated operating expenses of the electricity department, from $49.1 million this year to $45.04 in the coming year. The estimated savings, however, are much less significant than predicted when FPB chose to join KyMEA, a cooperative of municipal utilities. The move to KyMEA originally was touted to save FPB ratepayers 14%, or $6.3 million, on electricity costs in the first year, but the most recent predictions place it closer at less than 8%, or almost $4 million, in the first year.

Over the three years that the AMI will be rolled out, FPB’s water and electricity departments are expected to put about $8.5 million toward the project. The water department will cover its share of about $3 million through the interest received from 10-year bonds that will be issued in October, FPB officials said.

Rosen also broached several other initiatives for the coming budget year, including installation of three electric car charging stations in Frankfort, rebuilding the water reservoir, growing the capability of fiber internet connections throughout the city and wireless service in urban areas. FPB board members also agreed to place $15,000 in the budget to build water bottle drinking fountains in all schools throughout the county.

FPB also:

• Held a public hearing on changes to a water line extension cost recovery policy.

• Held a public hearing on lowering and eliminating service reconnect charges on cable TV, internet and telephone service.

• Held a public hearing on adjustments to the cable advertising rate cards during peak political campaign seasons.

• Unanimously approved a part-time on-call dispatcher position that would be paid $17.40 per hour.

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