PUC reviews ’14 budget

NEW ULM – The New Ulm Public Utilities Commission got a look at the utilities’ preliminary 2014 annual budget at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

The budget, which will be the focus of a review meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 26, anticipates operating income of $40,680,872, and operating expenses of $38,344,578, for net operating income of $2,236, 294.

The budget will see a reduction in the PUC’s unrestricted cash of $677,172 to cover an interdepartmental loan from the Gas Division to the Electric Division to fund capital projects in the North Side Substation. The interdepartmental loan would save the PUC about $50,000 in bonding costs.

The budget takes into consideration a 2.5 percent increase in labor costs, but does not anticipate any rate increases in 2014.

In other business, the PUC got a report from Dan O’Connor, the Wastewater Treatment Department supervisor, on the use of the video inspection system the PUC has purchased for inspecting sewer collection lines.

The inspection equipment allows the Wastewater Department to regularly inspect sanitary sewer lines in the city to assess the condition of the sewer pipes, to identify problem areas and defects that can be fixed before they become big problems.

O’Connor said the inspections could help the department make recommendations to the city Street Department, which operates the sewer pipe jet system, which cleans out the sewer pipes on a regular basis, on where it might or might not be needed, and to assist the City Engineer on making decisions for sewer repair and replacement projects.

The system, in use since August, should be able to cover about a third of the city’s sewer lines every year, completing the inspections in three years.

The PUC also voted to authorize participation in a business incentive program for the Heartland Consumers Power District.

Heartland is the city’s wholesale power supplier, and it has several incentive programs that encourage larger businesses to expand or start up by offering energy discounts. The latest program would offer new and expanding businesses with an average electric load of one MegaWatt (MW) or greater a discounted rate over a three-year period. Utilities Engineer Patrick Wrase said a participating company would realize a savings of $200,000 per year for each year of the program, at the minimum usage level.

Only two existing businesses in New Ulm use that much power, said Wrase, 3M and Kraft. The discount would be an incentive for a new business to locate in New Ulm, he said.

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