With new EPA standards set to drive up utility costs in the near future, the Missouri Public Utility Alliance has been hosting a series of community discussions on "Finding Answers to Your Utility Financing Needs and Environmental Issues."
The program will be making a stop in Fulton on March 20, and Director of Administration Bill Johnson said he would strongly encourage local residents to watch the broadcast of the discussion between local officials and MPUA representatives.
"I think it's going to be a very important discussion. I think the council and the citizens can learn a lot," Johnson said. "It will be good to hear someone else tell them what we've been saying for months."
According to an MPUA press release, "the program is designed to be highly educational for the members of your governing body ... to help them understand the basics of operating a utility business." The event is scheduled to start off with an informal discussion of local issues and priorities followed later by a presentation from the MPUA representatives.
"Our intent is that everyone who attends will gain a new idea or better understanding of these topics: Balancing the cost of utility operations with current rates; rising costs of EPA/DNR regulations; managing cash reserves and how a municipal utility can promote economic development."
Johnson said one of the main purposes of the meeting is "so the professionals can state their opinion on what's happening in the utility world. I think it will be interesting."
The visit from the Missouri Public Utility Alliance is especially timely given the news the city recently received from the City of Sikeston.
Fulton is contracted with Sikeston's power plant for a good portion of its power. Due to impending changes in EPA regulations, the plant - of which Fulton is a 5 percent owner - will require $35 million in improvements. Johnson said with operational expenses also likely to be affected, it is hard to calculate just how much these changes are going to cost the city.
"We could see up to a 50-percent increase in wholesale cost due to the increased regulations by the EPA," Johnson added.
In similar news, the city is contracted for power from the newly-built Prairie State Energy campus in Illinois. At the time the city entered into that contract, the cost of energy was estimated to be between $40-$45. Due to the EPA changes, the cost of power now is estimated to be in the range of $58-$60.
Johnson said the impact of new regulations for the sewer plant and "the impact that's going to have on the customers" also will be up for discussion.
"The City of Fulton's going to be forced into millions of dollars in improvements, and we get our funds from citizens," he said.