Pharos-Tribune

April 25, 2013

Alt-power talks at a standstill

City officials say timing isn’t right to discuss alternatives.

by Mitchell Kirk

LOGANSPORT — Representatives from wholesale electricity providers invited to discuss power alternatives were missing from Tuesday’s Logansport Utility Service Board meeting after city officials determined it would be best to wait until current negotiations with the proposed waste-to-energy plant’s developer have concluded.

John Davis, chairman of the utility service board, said at March’s meeting that he was planning to invite representatives from the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc., the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, the Wabash Valley Power Association and Duke Energy to meet with utility service board members to explore further alternatives for the city, should Pyrolyzer, LLC’s proposal to develop a plant powered by refuse-derived fuel not come to fruition.

Davis originally felt the meeting would be more accommodating for the power providers if it was held in executive session. Citing the part of Indiana Code pertaining to municipalities engaging in executive session, Logansport City Attorney Randy Head said the meeting would have to be public.

“After researching the statute, my opinion was that the meeting could not take place in executive session, it would need to be public,” Head said.

Davis said Head told him members from the power agencies could attend the utility service board meeting, but that their participation in any kind of discussions would have to be limited.

“The attorney had indicated we could have them here, but we couldn’t ask them questions that could be interpreted to be negotiations because there’s a fine line between information and discussion and negotiations,” Davis said. “With those findings from the legal part of this, we withdrew the request until a later date if necessary. At this point, we’ll see where current negotiations go.”

Paul Hartman, superintendent of Logansport Municipal Utilities and a utility service board member, said meeting with power providers are still very much a part of the plan.

“They’re going to be contacted during our negotiations, which are from now until October,” Hartman said. “They were always planned to be contacted. To have them present at a board meeting would preempt what’s happening in the negotiations and it just isn’t appropriate.”

Hartman went on to say that the providers will meet with the study team of consultants assisting the city with the power plant project currently in negotiations with Pyrolyzer.

“The timing is that we have to do it during negotiations and not a public meeting,” Hartman said. “You never negotiate during a public meeting. Negotiations will be with the study team and we’ll report what the results of them are.”

Todd Miller, a utility service board member, said he felt alternatives would be adequately addressed during negotiations with the study team, but has concerns regarding the purchase power agreement the team, the city and Pyrolyzer are currently working on.

“I know I wouldn’t be comfortable with considering just any purchase power agreement, although it does appear city council is completely in charge of it,” he said, citing an ordinance passed by the council to adopt a memorandum of understanding with Pyrolyzer to engage in negotiations. “The USB has no authority anymore... It’s entirely between the mayor and city council.”

As the utility service board won’t be a part of the negotiations, Miller said he hopes those involved will take great care in assessing this part of the deal.

“As a USB member, something I would hope is they would consider analyzing other suggestions for a purchase power agreement,” Miller said. “I’m not sure how we would be informed if it’s good if there’s nothing to compare it to.”

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

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition