Hey! Wait a minute...

I have posted twice before (here and here) about the City's process to set electricity rates for its corporation, Electric City Power. I have questioned how these rates are being determined given that the information that is publicly available offers no visible means of support. Likewise, my request to the City for legally required rate information has, so far, not yielded any information.

It caught my eye, then, when I saw Mary Jolley's letter to the City's Fiscal Services Operations Supervisor. Mary asked for "any and all information pertaining to the cost of power upon which the proposed rates" are based in Resolution 9648. [Emphasis mine.]

Mary's questions were referred to Peggy Bourne for response. Now this raises an interesting question. I can understand why the City Clerk responds to document requests, but why is she answering substantive questions about Electric City Power's rates? It makes sense to centralize responses to information requests when those requests seek documents under her jurisdiction. It does not make sense, though, that she be placed in the position of the City's spokesperson on a power plant project about which she has no expertise. (And, as I note below, this is not a simple matter of document requests, despite the City's efforts to characterize it as such.)

Ms. Bourne states in her letter of May 15, 2007, "The information pertaining to the cost of power upon which the proposed rates for Block One customers was based is found in the wholesale purchase agreements between the City and SME." She then attached the two agreements she says provide the basis for the rates, Power Purchase Agreement Addendum #1 and Addendum #2.

Ok, you ask. So what's the problem?

The problem is that Ms. Bourne's letter is wrong. Inaccurate. Incorrect. False. Ms. Jolley asked for "any and all information pertaining to the cost of power upon which the proposed rates" are based. Ms. Jolley is clearly trying to determine the basis for Block One rates, right?

If we look at Addendums 1 and 2, we see the following rates emerge:

6mW 9/1/05 thru 6/30/06 -then increasing to-
10mW 7/1/06 thru 9/30/11.

All at $44.15 per mW.

7mW 1/1/07 thru 12/31/08

At $52.80 per mW, then increasing to-

12 mW 1/1/09 thru 3/31/11

At $47.45 per mW.

These rates do not appear as the rates proposed for Electric City Power in Resolution 9648. Where do the rates come from then? According to Ms. Balzarini, it's all just cost. Not true.

And some might argue that Ms. Bourne's letter is technically correct. According to this line of argument, one might say that Ms. Jolley simply asked the wrong questions. She asked for information about the "pertaining to the cost of power," the argument might go, and that is just what she got.

But don't we have a right to expect more than lawyerly evasion from our employees? Ms. Jolley is trying to find out how the Block One power rates are determined. I have wondered the same thing.

Somehow, somewhere, someone is 'adjusting' the rates at which the City purchases the power to arrive at the rates at which the City sells the power. This is supposed to be a public process. In fact, it was sold to the public as such a process and as advantageous on that basis.

But unfortunately, the rate setting process is like so many other things at the City: secret. As I have learned in the last few months, so much of what is touted as open and public...isn't. Our local Sunshine Law watchdog...isn't. The people who are supposed to protect these rights...don't.

Now what?

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