Pharos-Tribune

June 27, 2013

Union leader demands utility board member's resignation

Controversy sparked over Duke's build-out.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — Lines in the sand continue to be drawn over Logansport’s power plant project. A union leader representing Logansport Municipal Utilities employees interrupted Tuesday night’s Utility Service Board meeting, demanding a board member’s resignation before walking out with several workers behind him.

Partway into the meeting, Richie Halfacre, a staff representative with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for Indiana and Kentucky, interrupted the proceedings by approaching the board and demanding board member Todd Miller’s resignation.

“Todd Miller, you should resign from this board immediately,” Halfacre said. “Shame on you,” he continued, for what he would later describe as what he feels to be Miller’s undermining of the city’s negotiations with a waste-to-energy power firm.

About 15 LMU generator plant employees stood behind Halfacre as he made his demands and accompanied him out of the board room after he had finished.

During the time set aside for board member comments at the end of the meeting, a frustrated Miller responded to Halfacre’s demonstration, gathering that it had to do with his desire to look into shutting down LMU’s generating plant now that Duke Energy had made improvements to its lines and could wholly supply Logansport with power.

“We can provide 100 percent of our energy from Duke today,” Miller said, adding that the change would save ratepayers millions of dollars and would draw in more businesses, many of which he said settle in surrounding areas where utility rates are far lower.

Miller went on to say he asked LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman if it would be possible to explore a way to switch to Duke in the interim between the near future and the completion of a refuse-derived fuel plant the city is pursuing, if and when it is developed and goes on line. He also expressed a desire to find a way to allow the generating plant’s employees remain employed with LMU.

In an interview after the meeting, Halfacre confirmed Miller’s interest in exploring shutting down the plant was the reason behind his actions.

“His job is to protect the ratepayers but it’s also to protect the employees of Logansport Municipal Utilities,” Halfacre said, going on to accuse Miller of only wanting to lower rates in order to look out for the company he is president of, Myers Spring Co.

“If you’re not going to look out for ratepayers, then you shouldn’t be on the board,” Halfacre said. “It was time he be called out.”

Halfacre also said he thinks Logansport switching to Duke Energy would perform the opposite of Miller’s predictions and raise rates.

“Right now, LMU answers to ratepayers. Duke doesn’t.”

Other board members expressed displeasure with the incident.

“It was out of order, 100 percent,” said Marty Monahan. “There’s a time and place for everything and that wasn’t it.”

Jay King disagreed with Halfacre’s understanding that one of the board’s responsibilities is to ensure employment.

“That’s not our job,” he said. “Our job is to protect the ratepayers. There won’t be jobs for anyone if rates aren’t protected.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.