NEW ROADS — The City Council made inroads Tuesday toward the city’s takeover of its municipal power plant by setting a public hearing next month to iron out the final details of a move that could save New Roads up to $270,000 a year.
The council’s 4-1 action came at the request of Mayor Robert Myer, who asked the council to consider adopting an ordinance amending the city’s electric rate beginning July 1 so revenue from residential electric bills bounces back into city coffers to maintain the upkeep and operation of the municipal power plant.
The administration was adamant the change wouldn’t alter current electrical rates.
Right now, residents are billed by the Louisiana Electric Power Association, which has operated the plant since 1989.
The mayor told council members Tuesday night that LEPA recently announced it wasn’t renewing its lease with the city, thereby relinquishing its control of the New Roads power plant.
LEPA is pulling out of operating power plants in Plaquemine and Morgan City, as well, in a cost-saving restructuring effort ahead of its construction of a 64-megawatt natural-gas-powered electric plant in Morgan City, Myer said.
Myer has suggested absorbing the power plant into the city’s fold to use as a “reliable backup power source” for emergency situations, such as extended power outages caused by major hurricanes and storms.
“This decision is about level of service and convenience for citizens,” Myer said.
The mayor said the city will likely keep five of the seven LEPA employees currently working at the facility. But those employees would be cross-trained to work various roles within the city’s Public Works Department, he said.
Myer is hoping the council will agree to a yearlong trial run of operating the plant.
The only thing missing from Myer’s pitch Tuesday was cost projections regarding the city’s takeover, which didn’t sit well with Councilman Kurt Kellerman, who voted against moving the item forward.
Kellerman said he’s not against New Roads keeping the plant open, but there are a few questions he’d like answered before he makes a final decision.
Kellerman said it’s important that city leaders review cost projections from LEPA’s operation of the plant to get a better idea if the city can truly afford such an undertaking.
“We have to have something to look at,” he said. “I’ve repeatedly asked that we start these discussions months ago.”
Other council members pointed out to Kellerman that Tuesday’s vote would just set a public hearing for the council’s July 7 meeting.
“This is just allowing the public to engage in this. You still have time to get the data you’re looking for,” Councilman Kirk “Clipper” White said to Kellerman.
The mayor was hesitant to discuss cost projections at Tuesday’s meeting because he didn’t have any concrete numbers to present to the council.
“There are just so many variables,” he said. “But we budgeted for this. We can operate safely within LEPA’s numbers. I think they were a little high because they were spread across multiple agencies.”
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