Bill Krummel, as chair of the council’s Public Power Committee, is calling for a meeting the last week before the election to discuss how to get from point A, the idea to point B, doing something about it.
The chairman of Norwalk’s Public Power Committee has invited 2nd and 3rd Taxing Districts officials to City Hall Tuesday night to share their experiences in the municipal power realm.”I want to find out more about the two districts in the city that distribute their own power and generate some power, and see if we can’t work out something that would use their base and expand it to the city,” said Councilman William M. Krummel, chairman of the committee.
South Norwalk Electric and Water, as well as the 3rd Taxing District Electric Co., buy their electricity through the Connecticut Municipal Electrical Energy Cooperative and sell it to customers at rates lower than do their private competitors, according to district officials.
CT Jobs George E. Leary, general manager for the 3rd Taxing District, and John M. Hiscock, general manager for SNEW, have agreed to attend Tuesday night’s meeting, participate in discussion and provide information about their electric systems, according to Krummel.
The Public Power Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Room 101 of City Hall, 125 East Ave.
The Common Council formed the committee last year to explore whether the city should form a Norwalk Power Authority to combat rising electricity costs by private electric companies.
The committee, however, has not met for months, and may lack the dollars needed to perform a feasibility study. Earlier this year, the city approved $50,000 in its 2007-08 operating budget for the study, which has yet to begin. To date, several firms have answered the city’s request-for-proposals, a first step in finding a firm to perform the actual study.
Former Mayor Bill Collins, who raised the idea of the city pursuing municipal power, said the process has been “painfully slow” and that $100,000 will be needed to perform the feasibility study. The 3rd Taxing District has committed $25,000, making $75,000 available. The 2nd Taxing District hasn’t committed any dollars yet, according to Collins.
Collins, however, believes that there is broad support for the city pursuing public power.
“When I first raised this about four years ago, there was a lot of yawning. Now, when you stop and talk to people, there’s so much support, even across party lines, for obvious reasons. People are getting killed with their electric bills,” Collins said. “It’s got public momentum behind it.”
So far, the 3rd Taxing District has agreed to commit $25,000 toward a feasibility study, according to David L. Brown, district commission chairman. Brown some people at the 2nd Taxing District think that public power “probably wouldn’t work” for the city.
“I’m willing to spend some money to see if it can,” Brown said. “I think there’s a lot more benefits to have a citywide electric facility.”
Michael K. Geake, a 2nd Taxing District commissioner and at-large council candidate, has pitched municipal power as a way to save the city money and put those savings toward repairing infrastructure. Geake, however, opposes put 2nd Taxing District money into a feasibility study. Asking the district to do so amounts to asking the “lowest-income taxpayers in the city to subsidize lowering the electric rates for the highest-income rate payers in the city.”
“The 2nd Taxing District is the lowest income district in the city. It will get absolutely no benefit from the Norwalk (Public) Power Authority,” Geake said. “We have our own power. We won’t be getting a cutback.”
Councilman Douglas E. Hempstead, a member of the Public Power Committee, said the city should not give up on exploring public power. At the same time, the idea will require more dollars than have been allocated, according to him.
“At this particular time, unless there’s more money put into the pot, it probably won’t move forward. It’s a question of priorities and funding,” Hempstead said. “It doesn’t mean we should give up on it. (But) without the next step, we’re kind of treading water here.”
As a SNEW customer I disagree with Mr. Geake. SNEW is holding a deposit of my money and plans to pay an uncompetitive interest rate on it. They could certainly spare $50k and join in on a joint public power investigation that would benefit SNEW customers.