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Willmar, Minn., Utilities Commission tables GM contract until final details worked out

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission on Monday tabled the employment contract with recently appointed general manager Wesley Hompe until final details are worked out.

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The commission tabled the contract after Commission President Dave Baker said some small details remain to be settled.

Baker said he wanted the full three-member Labor Relations Committee to finish work on the contract before presenting it to the commission.

Baker said the committee has met with Hompe "and we are very close to having full agreement on everything. There's really no issues that are going to be of any concern.''

Committee member Carol Laumer recently returned from a trip and was in attendance Monday. Other committee members are Baker and Matt Schrupp.

Schrupp agreed and said the committee would have the contract ready for the next commission meeting.

In other business Monday, the commission approved the $1,239,893 purchase, effective Oct. 1, of six diesel generators the utility had been leasing since 2000 from Ziegler Inc.

The purchase was recommended by the Planning Committee. Committee member Steve Salzer said the purchase includes a customer service agreement with Ziegler for maintenance. In June 2013, the utility will have extended service coverage, which is the warranty against major breakdowns and malfunctions.

In an interview, Hompe said the reason for the purchase is it's cheaper to buy the units eventually. Each unit produces 2 megawatts of electricity for a total of 12 megawatts.

The units have three purposes. They are operated for load management to reduce peak load on the hottest days; and are used when the price to operate them is less than the price of buying power on the market. Also, the units provide emergency backup. In the event the city loses all connection to outside power, the units would keep the utility partially working, he said.

Also Monday, the commission voted to forward to the City Council 13 unpaid utility bills totaling $5,918.22. The bills will be placed as a lien against the properties.

Hompe said the owners were given the opportunity to appear before the commission to discuss the bills, but no one responded. Hompe said most of the properties are in foreclosure.

City Council member Bruce DeBlieck, the liaison to the commission, asked who is responsible for bills incurred by the previous owners.

DeBlieck was referring to a discussion the council had last week with a new property owner who is facing a bill incurred by the former owner for unpaid city grass and weed mowing. Officials said the payment responsibility goes with the property.

Hompe said that when a new owner takes over, the lien is sometimes not listed when real estate agents or title search companies look for liens. "Once we hand it over to the city, then they take it from there and go through the process,'' said Hompe.

DeBlieck asked if title search companies talk to the utility about possible liens.

Electric Services Manager Jeff Kimpling said many title companies will contact the utilities about unpaid bills, and real estate agents in most cases will ask about unpaid bills when obtaining average monthly rate information.

In other matters, the commission voted to contribute $4,000 to each of The Salvation Army HeatShare Program and Heartland Community Action Agency heating assistance program.

In other discussion, Baker said recently appointed commissioner Dave Becker has resigned. Baker said Becker has taken new employment and is now frequently out of town. Baker said Mayor Frank Yanish is receiving nominations to fill the vacancy. Baker praised Becker's service as commissioner.

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