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Willmar, Minn., utility receives 75 percent reimbursement for Sandy relief work on Long Island

WILLMAR — Willmar Municipal Utilities has been reimbursed for 75 percent of the cost of sending two linemen who helped Long Island Power Authority restore power knocked out by Hurricane Sandy last year.

Willmar crew chief Dick Thynes and lineman Casey Jenny volunteered to join thousands of utility workers from around the country Nov. 4-14 to repair Long Island power lines and poles damaged by the hurricane Oct. 29, but their expenses were to be reimbursed.

Willmar has received $31,000, which was paid by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The remaining $10,600 will be paid by Long Island Power, said Jeff Kimpling, Willmar Utilities electric services manager.

The reimbursement was reported Monday to the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission.

In other business, General Manager Wesley Hompe reported combined revenues from the electric, water and heating divisions rose 8.9 percent from $27,289,000 in 2011 to $29,707,000 in 2012. He said the increase basically reflects water and electric rate adjustments made in 2012. Also, he said the utility kept costs fairly well in line, down .2 percent from $24,985,000 in 2011 to $24,931,000 in 2012.

As a result, operating income was up 107 percent from $2,304,000 in 2011 to $4,776,000 in 2012. Retained earnings, which remain after all expenses are paid, rose 291 percent from $760,000 in 2011 to $2,973,000 in 2012. Of that amount, the city of Willmar will receive a payment in lieu of taxes of $1.9 million. The remainder is used for capital projects.

On the consumption side, electric use was down 1.3 percent, and district heating was down 14.1 percent due mainly to the warmer winter weather last year, but water consumption was up 4.4 percent.

Commissioner Matt Schrupp said the health of the utility is very strong. “It shows by the year-ending statement that we had a very good year and overall a healthy position for the utility,’’ he said.

Hompe said the utility will be closely watching rates to make sure that costs and incomes are matching and that there are no surprises.

In other business, the commission:

- Received the bad debt write-off report. For the year 2012, the utility wrote off $39,664 in unpaid bills, which was down from $58,317 in 2011. Collection efforts continue through agencies and the property lien process.

- Was told the utility took possession last Friday of a new bucket truck. The truck was ordered one year ago and requires time to outfit. The Ford F550 chassis was purchased from Mills Ford of Willmar at a cost of $45,303 (including tax), and the 40-foot boom and bucket were purchased from Altec Industries of Birmingham, Ala., for $49,871 (includes tax and also a $19,000 trade-in for the used truck). Total cost is $95,174.

- Was told new lineman Joe Johnson will begin work Feb. 19. He replaces Ed Zurn, who resigned last December to take a position with the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association.

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