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July 22, 2013

DAVIS: Shed some light on the situation

Tuesday, July 23, will mark my last meeting as a member of the Logansport Municipal Utility Service Board. I believe it is appropriate that as I close this chapter of my public life, I offer some reflections on the historical nature of our utility, the future of our municipal utility and some closing personal thoughts on public service.

Logansport is a unique animal. We still generate our own power and control the operation of both our generation and distribution of that power. In addition, we operate a water department and a wastewater department. Further, the Stormwater Management Board has responsibility for stormwater drainage.

From a historical perspective, I returned to Logansport from college in 1973 and went to work for the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. I covered the Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety and Dan Blom covered the Logansport City Council. You might say we had front-row seats as we observed and reported on the operational and financial problems that befell the Logansport Municipal Utilities (LMU) in the mid-1970s, ultimately ending in the passage of city ordinance 78-13 creating the service board.

Through hard work of many individuals, the utility's situation stabilized, and in general, LMU enjoyed stable, competitive and profitable years through the 1980s and 1990s. The tides began to change in the new millennium, specifically when our coal prices shot from approximately $65 per ton to $136 per ton. As a utility we began losing money in 2009 and have bled red ink ever since. Over the four-year period of 2009 to 2012, we lost approximately $4.5 million.

This leads to the second issue I wish to address, the current discussion of a new electric generation plant, commonly referred to as the Pyrolyzer proposal. Again, it is mandatory that one understands how we got here, thus let me offer a brief history.

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