Commission approves KPP change

Register Reporter

Although their decision has no bearing on their ongoing discussions with Westar, Iola commissioners OK’d Tuesday a measure that changes how the Kansas Power Pool operates.
For the past two years, Iola has purchased its wholesale electricity through KPP after ending a 40-year exclusive affiliation with Westar Energy, the state’s largest utility pro-vider.
But as the power pool grew — it is now at 41 communities — it has become exceedingly difficult for KPP to hold regular meetings because each of the cities is considered part of its board of directors. That meant at least 21 communities were required to be at each meeting in order establish a quorum, City Administrator Judy Brigham said.
“I’ve been at several meetings where we couldn’t meet because there wasn’t a quorum,” she said.
Before Iola commissioners Tuesday was a measure that adopts a nine-member board of directors for KPP. The change required unanimous acceptance from each of the 41 communities. Prior to this week, 40 of the 41 cities agreed with the change.
Iola, one of the larger cities in KPP, was the notable holdout.
Iola Commissioner Bill Shirley hesitated on agreeing to KPP’s change because Iola’s voting delegate was not guaranteed a seat on the nine-member board.
“What happens if we don’t approve this,” Shirley asked.
“Then we’ll probably be asked to get out of the Kansas Power Pool,” Brig-ham replied.
Shirley ultimately agreed to the change after Brigham phoned Colin Whitley, executive director of KPP, who said he would promote Iola’s inclusion on the nine-member board.
The motion passed 2-0. Commissioner Craig Abbott was absent.

THE NEW shape of KPP does not change Iola’s ongoing pursuit of cheaper energy.
Scott Shreve, the city’s energy consultant, is studying a rate analysis and proposal from Westar to determine whether it would be cheaper to return to Westar. Even if Iola decides to go with the utility giant, it must remain with KPP for two years, Brigham said.
And, Mayor Bill Maness noted, Westar’s willingness to negotiate on friendlier terms didn’t come about until the city joined the power pool.
“In the last 21⁄2 years, we’ve discussed power a lot, but I don’t get the impression we’re being held hostage by KPP,” Maness said. “I did get that impression from Westar when I first came onto the commission.”
Still, Shirley interjected, “if Westar gives us the best deal, I’m obligated to go with Westar.”

IN A related matter, the city will spend $13,500 to improve Iola’s breakers and relay switches at each of its substations.
Mid State Electric, Salina, will recalibrate the various components of the substations to better curb power outages during electrical storms.