City declines pursuit of Westar wind energy offer
A failed motion is what transpired following a discussion at the Sabetha City Commission meeting Monday evening, regarding an offer that Westar made to the city.
The Sabetha City Commission met at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 10, at City Hall. Present were Mayor Doug Clark, Commissioners Nick Aberle, Norm Schmitt, Maridel Wittmer and Julie Burenheide, City Administrator Doug Allen, Assistant City Administrator Bill Shroyer and City Clerk Steve Compo. Also present was Scott Shreve with Energy Management Group (EMG) and patron Phil Moser.
Shreve came before the commission to offer the city the opportunity to purchase two megawatts of wind energy from the Soldier Creek Wind Farm, which will potentially be located in the southern part of Nemaha County. Shreve said that Westar is offering the City of Sabetha two megawatts for a fixed rate of $18 for 20 years.
Currently, Sabetha has one megawatt from the Kingman Wind Farm, which is located in Kingman, Kan.
“This is a really good price to purchase at,” Shreve said. “I recommend you do it.”
Commissioner Aberle questioned how this compares with the Kingman Wind Farm, which is currently at an average of $26 for 20 years.
“It’s hard to tell when the wind blows, right?” Shreve said. “But with the all of the historical that I have, it looks like our market prices that we are replacing are anywhere from $16 to $20. The $16 was from last year, and so far 2018 is at $20.30. So we would have just saved about $2.50 if we had the wind in our portfolio this year.”
Moser questioned how much the city would save annually, if they decided to purchase. Shreve said it was hard to say, but estimated that the city would save approximately $15,000 per year.
“I personally don’t have a problem with saving money,” Commissioner Aberle said. “I just don’t like the timing of this. I think its a political play. I personally have a bad feeling in my gut, endorsing something by participating. It wouldn’t be a stretch for someone to say, ‘the City of Sabetha bought power from the Soldier Creek Wind Farm. They’re in favor of it.’ I don’t know if that is a good place for any of us.”
Commissioner Wittmer asked when a decision needed to be made.
“We need to give an indication whether we want to keep the two megawatts or let it go,” Shreve said.
Commissioner Burenheide agreed with Aberle, saying it is such a heated topic, she isn’t sure which way to go.
Commissioner Schmitt said they have to put the emotion to the side.
“You have to put that aside,” he said. “If you take the emotion out and think of the general good of our community, users of the power, and make the decision based on that. Don’t pass up any opportunity or decline any opportunity based on emotion. My point is, I don’t think we’re talking about anything that is morally improper. I think that it is a very hot topic right now and to decide based on that would be the wrong approach. The approach should be, does it help our city, our community, who uses the power.”
“I think you have to look at everyone though,” Commissioner Wittmer said. “There is a large group that doesn’t care if the windmills go up or not, but you also have a very vocal group that is very much against.”
“The sad part about it is the realization that we will have this wind power, and we will buy it at some rate, whether we like it or not it’s here,” Commissioner Burenheide said. “Westar is invested in it and we take it from them.”
Commissioner Aberle said he is not opposed to the offer, but that he doesn’t like the timing.
“I’m not opposed to it,” he said. “I voted for the Kingman project. I just don’t like the timing. I think it’s a political ploy. Because right now when things are trying to get approved, it appears to me that there is a lobbyist somewhere pushing this issue and that’s where it is coming from. It might not be a moral issue, but it’s a character issue.”
Following the discussion, Schmitt made a motion to move forward with an agreement with Westar to purchase the two megawatts. The motion died, due to lack of a second.
Also at the meeting:
Moser addressed the commission regarding several streets around town that need repairs due to pot holes. Allen informed him that it is on their to-do list for the spring.
Minutes from the Nov. 26 meeting and Wage Resolution 2018-25, which raises wages for employees by 5 percent across the board, were approved.
Also, after a hearing that received no public comment, the amended State Budget was approved.
It also was announced that there will be a Christmas Employee Break at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21.
The next commissioners meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.