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Willmar City Council approves electric rate increases

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council Tuesday night approved a 14 percent increase in municipal electric rates over the next year and a half. Electric rates will go up 7 percent effective today for the remainder of 2011 and will go up another 7 percent effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Rates were last increased in 2009.

The Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission approved the increases on June 13 and forwarded a resolution to the council with a recommendation to approve an ordinance authorizing the increases.

Without the increases, the utility was facing a $1,070,200 loss in retained earnings in 2011 and an estimated loss of $2.3 million in 2012, said Utility General Manager Bruce Gomm. He said the increases were due mainly to escalating transmission and power supply costs. Gomm said the utility was doing everything it can to control costs.

Even with the increases, the utility projects a loss of $393,513 in 2011 but an estimated gain of $4,195 in retained earnings in 2012.

During a public hearing, Jeff Nuytten, vice president of operations for Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, expressed concerns about the increases. He said the increases will cost the company $600,000 in its annual $4.5-$5 million electric bill. "It's a pretty healthy increase,'' he said.

In other business during a meeting that ran for more than three hours, the council approved a series of ordinance revisions altering the penalties for liquor establishments that sell alcohol to minors.

During a public hearing that the council called to consider the changes, supporters said the changes will be fairer to businesses that violate the rules. Others said revisions tend to remove the authority of the council to be able to suspend or revoke the licenses of an establishment that violates the ordinance.

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