April 16, 2014

KITCHELL: Forum about adding answers, subtracting questions


---- — A week from tonight, Logansport residents and those outside Logansport who purchase electricity from the Logansport Municipal Utilities will have a chance to find out some things for themselves.

A free forum at McHale Performing Arts Center will feature three panelists. One will be a representative from the American Public Power Association, the entity that represents the nation’s local, taxpayer-owned utilities in cities of virtually all sizes. He will be able to frame the discussion about what is happening all over the country to municipal utilities such as ours and why municipal utilities for the most part aren’t being sold out to investor-owned, private utilities left and right, or awash in red ink. In fact, municipal utilities for the most part are in the black because electric power is a growth industry in this country.

Another expert on solar energy will provide information on the cost-effectiveness of the solar option for public utilities.

Finally, former Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation President Skip Kuker will return to Logansport to speak on the important correlation between economic development and the cost and reliability of power via public utilities. Kuker serves as the economic development director for Greenfield, a city that like nearly five dozen other Indiana communities, is a member of the Indiana Municipal Power Agency.

This is a forum that makes money for no organization or sponsor, which happens to be the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy of which I am a founding member. The intent of the forum is to provide some answers for local residents who would probably feel more comfortable getting their own answers from people in positions to comment on public utilities, economic develop and alternative energy than local rsidents like us who have opinions about them.

Last summer at a similar forum at McHale, 170 people came to hear two national energy experts and former Indiana University Business Research Center Director Morton Marcus speak and answer questions. The debate on how Logansport’s energy future will be defined has moved on slightly since then, but it hasn’t been resolved. Vetting different energy scenarios for LMU that include natural gas, wind and other alternative fuels also may be discussed in the future, but for now, this is a chance for those who pay utility bills every month and those who simply care about the future of the community to come prepared to listen and ask questions if they so desire

At a time when some have voiced to me the opinion that there are more questions than answers about Logansport’s energy future, next Wednesday represents a night to reverse the ratio with the idea that the more we know about all options, the better the outcome will be.

Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at