Litchfield City Hall

City’s electric bill set to soar

Turning on the lights is likely to get more expensive for Litchfield residents in the near future.

The city will see a $1 million increase in the price of electricity it purchases during the next five years as it picks up the cost of a transmission fee it has not been paying. And in answer to that, Litchfield City Council approved a rate study during its Feb. 16 meeting to determine what increases to residential and business customers might be necessary to cover the increased costs.

Litchfield currently receives electric power from two sources. Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, an association of 18 non-profit, municipally owned utilities including Litchfield, supplies 4-10 megawatts of power daily, with the primary source being the coal-burning generation plant in Becker. The city also receives about 6 megawatts of electricity from Western Area Power Administration, or WAPA, which gets its power from hydroelectric generators in western states along the Missouri River.

Through an old agreement, SMMPA has paid the transmission cost of getting electric power from WAPA through the grid to three of its members — Litchfield, Fairmont and Redwood Falls. SMMPA used to receive credit for this delivery, but that is changing this year — a factor known to the city when it signed its last contract with SMMPA in 2012 — and the power agency now will begin charging for the transmission cost.

Litchfield’s WAPA usage is high — good, because WAPA rates are low — which means the transmission cost will equate to about $1 million annually, or 15 percent of the city’s purchased power costs.

Because of that significant impact, SMMPA offered Litchfield the opportunity to gradually ramp up to the full $1 million rate over the next five years. This would mean a $200,000 increase this year, followed by $200,000 increases in each of the next four years.

“They wouldn’t have to (offer this schedule),” City Administrator Dave Cziok said. “There’s a lot of history here as to why they were paying it to begin with.”

The City Council unanimously approved a new contract with SMMPA regarding the WAPA delivery costs, and also approved a plan to begin a rate study, which will determine how best to set rates for residential and business electric customers to cover the increased power cost.

Citywide cleanup set for May 22

City Council members set May 22 as the day for a citywide cleanup event, which will run from 8-10:30 a.m.

The city has done a citywide cleanup for several years, offering residents an opportunity to rid their homes of appliances and other large items. Last year, however, the event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“Having missed a year, I think people will be looking forward to it again,” Mayor Keith Johnson said.

Johnson and council member Darlene Kotelnicki will serve as a committee to begin planning and organizing the event for this year.

Zoning change approved

The City Council approved a zoning change for Zion Lutheran Church, 504 N. Gilman Ave., from residential to business. The change will allow the church to upgrade its kitchen to commercial grade to provide meals for the church’s child care center and to various other Meeker County locations.

The church is working with Lutheran Social Services to develop a community nutrition and connectivity project, according to documentation it provided to the city. The project aims to provide nutritional meals and snacks for childcare youth and older adults.

Zion estimates that it will produce 150 meals for children and 120 meals for seniors Monday through Friday. The number could increase if more childcare programs request the service or more seniors participate.

Street vacation hearing set

The Council also set a public hearing for March 15 to consider a street vacation request from Anderson Chemical. The request for vacation of about 250 feet of South Geinitz Avenue originally came in 2019, but a hearing on the matter was never scheduled.

Planning Commission appointments

Larry Dahl and Shannon Asmus were reappointed to the Planning Commission.

Though there was one other applicant, council member Ron Dingmann, in offering the motion to reappointment Dahl and Asmus, said “they both have been doing a great job .. served us every well.”

— Brent Schacherer, general manager