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Data demonstrates WPU efficiency

WORTHINGTON -- Data compiled by the American Public Power Association (APPA) shows that Worthington Public Utilities is an efficiently run and competitive in costs and expenses with other public utilities across the nation.

WPU General Manager Scott Hain presented the data Monday to the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission, highlighting such performance areas as the number of retail customers per full-time equivalent employee, total operation and maintenance expense per kilowatt-hour sold, distribution operation and maintenance expense per retail customer and several others.

The 2009 data, based on reports submitted by 170 publicly owned electric utilities across the U.S., reveals that the WPU Electric Department has 431 retail customers per full-time equivalent employee (FTE). By contrast, all APPA utilities serve an average of 322 retail customers per FTE.

"That indicates to me that we're running a pretty lean staff, and I guess we've always known that," Hain said.

In a breakdown of total operation and maintenance expense per kilowatt-hour sold, WPU came in at 6.4 cents, which Hain said compared well to the all APPA utilities mark of 6.9 cents.

"Even with a purchased power and transmission expense that accounted for almost 90 percent of the total operation and maintenance expense in 2009, we're still fairly competitive," Hain said.

WPU purchases between 75 and 80 percent of its power from Missouri River Energy Services, with the rest coming from Western Area Power Administration. Hain noted the city was fortunate for its ability to have WAPA power, "which is pretty low cost."

Commissioner Ron Wood, the Worthington City Council representative on the Water and Light board, said the data speaks volumes about WPU's management and operations.

"Our citizens look at (our) rate increases and don't realize where we're in the spectrum not only in Minnesota, but across the Midwest," Wood said. "We're also fortunate to be associated with Missouri River and WAPA."

In another matter Monday, the commission consented to accept a financial settlement of $25,500 with Landmark Structures of Fort Worth, Texas, regarding its construction of a 1.5-million-gallon water tower on Worthington's east side.

Hain explained the water tower was contractually slated to be "substantially complete" by Aug. 1, 2009, and wasn't certified as such until Sept. 4, 2009. After initially contending WPU wasn't entitled to any "liquefied damages," the city and Landmark exchanged offers -- with WPU ultimately accepting Landmark's $25,500 figure.

There was nothing wrong structurally with the new water tower, added Hain, who also noted Landmark was "very responsive" and good to work with when conducting its first-anniversary inspection.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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