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WMU plans for a bright future

WILLMAR -- Willmar Municipal Utilities is continuing to plan for its future, both short-term and long-term. Two major projects on the schedule are the possible construction of a new facility and the completion of a local resource strategic plan. ...

Willmar Municipal Utilities
The Willmar Municipal Utilities office building, with the utility’s power plant in the background, is shown Monday. (GARY MILLER | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - Willmar Municipal Utilities is continuing to plan for its future, both short-term and long-term. Two major projects on the schedule are the possible construction of a new facility and the completion of a local resource strategic plan.
Both were discussed at the March 1 Planning Committee meeting, whose minutes were shared Monday at the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission meeting.
The tentative completion date for the facility, if it takes place, is spring 2020.
Willmar Municipal Utilities staff met in January and decided to establish two separate committees regarding the facilities project.
The first committee is made up of staff and commissioners and will assist in the design and functionality of a new facility, so it will best meet the needs of the Willmar Municipal Utilities and the citizens of Willmar.
The second committee will include staff and commissioners and will also have representatives from the business and private community to look into the public views and advisory aspects of the facility.
There have been some informal talks with the city of Willmar about the possibility of building a joint office and parking facility for both organizations. One possible location for this could be the downtown Willmar Block 50, which is the city-owned parking lot south of Bethel Lutheran Church.
“It didn’t seem that particular plan would make sense for our needs,” said Justin Mattern, Commissioner and Planning Committee chairman. The next steps for the facility project are to update the existing 2010 building study, continue discussions with the city of Willmar and begin the marketing, designing and project management of the facility.
Regarding the strategic plan, the Municipal Utilities Commission approved a professional services agreement Monday with Great River Energy to perform a local resource planning study. The Willmar Municipal Utilities will be charged by the hour, for a total not to exceed $21,360. The study will identify the minimum amount of power Willmar Municipal Utilities needs to generate in the Willmar area to maintain a stable system during a worst-case failure of a single piece of equipment. It will also compile reliability concerns and possible transmission deficiencies in the Willmar area and Kandiyohi County as a whole.
This study will be a part of the larger strategic plan. There are several reasons why Willmar Municipal Utilities wants to complete a strategic plan, with a target completion date of Jan. 1. Market swings, new air quality regulations and questions whether the electric generation plant can operate independently of the area transmission system are just some of the concerns. The organization also wants to make sure it is adequately protecting its multimillion-dollar operation and its approximately 20 employees.
“It is important we develop a strategic plan to address these issues,” Mattern said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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