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Willmar Municipal Utilities still making Big Stone II payments

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News Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
(320) 235-6769 customer support
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- Municipal Utilities Commission members have been wanting to stop payments for Big Stone II after plans for the proposed power plant were cancelled last October.

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But Willmar Utilities will probably continue making those payments until the end of the year, according to General Manager Bruce Gomm.

"I believe we need to continue to making payments through December 2010,'' Gomm told the commission Monday. The payments are for the debt that was incurred to finance the permitting process for the former power plant project, he said.

Big Stone II was cancelled Oct. 30 after the lead developer, Otter Tail Power Company of Fergus Falls, pulled out of the project and the four remaining partners were unable to find another utility company to replace Otter Tail.

Gomm said he was advised by Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency of Blue Earth, a Big Stone II partner, that Willmar is still obligated for its share of the debt that paid for the permitting process and miscellaneous engineering costs and legal fees.

Central Minnesota is the entity through which Willmar had agreed to buy Big Stone power. Willmar's payment of about $22,000 a month was initially based on 7 megawatts of power from the 550-megawatt South Dakota plant, even though the commission voted to increase the amount to 30 megawatts if the project moved forward.

Gomm said the increased power purchase was not scheduled until construction on the plant started.

Gomm agreed to a commission request to arrange a meeting with a Central Minnesota representative to explain the situation.

Because Big Stone was cancelled, Willmar has lost $900,000 in planning funds, Mayor Les Heitke said last week in his State of the City address.

In other business, the commission was told repairs will be made soon to one of Willmar's two wind turbines.

The south turbine located closest to Willmar High School has not been operating for three weeks due to a hydraulic leak.

Gomm said Electrical Maintenance Service of Gary, S.D., was to have received replacement parts and repairs were scheduled to have been made Monday, but were delayed due to the weather. Gomm said the work will probably be done today.

The two turbines were commissioned early last September and are designed to provide about 3 percent of Willmar's energy needs. The turbine that has not been functioning lately has been the one that has had the majority of problems, according to Gomm.

He said all work has been performed and costs have been paid under warranty.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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