With no comments from the public, the most expensive action the Unified Government considered Dec. 19 passed unanimously.
The UG approved $250 million in bonds for the Board of Public Utilities to place air quality controls on the Nearman power plant. No one spoke during a public hearing, but BPU and UG officials said the air quality controls were the best option for the utility, facing federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The wording of the resolution states that the funding is for the BPU’s capital improvements.
“We have tried to find what is the most affordable and most reliable option for the Board of public utilities to continue to provide reliable and affordable power to this community,” said BPU President David Alvey.
The best option is to retrofit the Nearman plant for air quality controls to continue to allow the BPU to use coal, he said. That allows the BPU to take advantage of the low price of coal and price stability.
During discussion, UG Commissioner Ann Murguia said she had voted no on this proposal when it came in front of a Standing Committee, but there was a misunderstanding on why she had voted no. She said she found it odd that there was only one entity that had bid on this job. She requested seeking another bid to make sure the utility was getting the best deal.
“I’m disappointed that this second bid hasn’t happened,” she said.
She also said she was disappointed to receive phone calls from workers at the Nearman plant who thought they would lose their jobs and the plant close because of her no vote, as that was not her purpose. She said she was in favor of compliance, but also in favor of getting multiple bids to get the best buy for tax dollars.
Commissioner Hal Walker said there may be the potential for grant funding for part of this expense. He asked BPU General Manager Don Gray to look into it to see if the amount of the bond funding could be reduced.
Commissioner Mike Kane said the commission takes these decisions seriously and needed all the information before it could make a decision. He praised the staff and workers at the BPU who he said were very dedicated.
On Dec. 19, the UG also approved the sale of some BPU-owned property located at 1211 and 1212 N. 8th St. to KVC Health Systems Inc. The location is near 8th and Washington Boulevard.
The sale is scheduled to close on Jan. 8, and should bring 150 jobs to downtown Kansas City, Kan., according to information provided to the UG. The sale price is $900,000.
An appraisal was conducted and the offer is within the appraised amount, UG Administrator Dennis Hays said.
In answer to a question from Commissioner Tarence Maddox, UG attorney Jody Boeding said that the funds from the sale of this property owned by the BPU would go to the BPU, not to the UG’s general fund.