For years Springfield’s CWLP Department has been a black hole. No matter what the form of government, NO Mayor has ever understood the city owned utility’s finances. As a result mysterious things are always going on there. The 50 million $$$ power buying contract that went belly up came as a complete surprise to everyone in the 1990s. The coal contracts in the 1980s were even more questionable. Now they are saying “because of the depressed economy” we will never make our own budget surpluses for the year. Give me a break. People are using less energy it is true. But that is gasoline not electricity. Something ain’t right.
CWLP engineer: Future of utility depends on economy
City Water, Light and Power’s chief engineer Tuesday described the state of the city-owned utility as stable, with its future largely dependent on the overall economy.
“With the economic conditions if they return, power prices will go up, and some of those revenues that we had lost and anticipated having, hopefully those will return, and that will improve the economic stability of the utility,” said Eric Hobbie, after an update on the utility to aldermen.
The new, 200-megawatt Dallman 4 was expected to generate millions of dollars annually from selling surplus power. But revenues have fallen far short of projections largely because of a depressed energy market.
CWLP’s spending plan for the fiscal year that began March 1 totals about $352 million, an increase of 10.8 percent over the previous year. Projected electric fund expenses total $295.6 million, an increase of 8 percent. Water fund expenses total $56.6 million, an increase of 27 percent, although that can largely be attributed to capital improvements that will be paid for with prior water rate hikes.
CWLP faces its share of challenges in the years ahead, including an aging work force and new federal laws and regulations, Hobbie and other CWLP officials said. Aging equipment is another concern.
Hobbie, who took over as chief engineer in 2009, said about 25 percent of CWLP’s 700 employees are over the age of 50 and have more than 20 years of experience. He said the utility tries to promote from within, but noted there is a “big gap” between younger employees and those on the verge of retirement.