The Princeton, Illinois, City Council vote unanimously on September 19 to form a five-member Citizens Electric Utility Advisory Committee that would help run the municipality’s electricity department.
At the same meeting, the council passed the second and final reading of a 6 percent electric rate hike that will become effective in October. That increase means a typical residential customer will see an increase of about $3.10 a month during the winter billing cycles and about $4.43 a month during the summer, according to a report by the Bureau County Republican News (BCRN).
The money is badly needed to replenish ash reserves and catch up with overlooked increases, the Princeton utility said.
Indeed, earlier this year, Bob Nowak, the city’s temporary financial director, discovered that Princeton did not have $3 million in funds for utility investments that it thought it had.
What’s more, the city had not increased its electric rates to stay in line with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA), which resulted in the city absorbing those increases throughout the year.
The IMEA is a not-for-profit unit of local government created in 1984 that comprises 32 municipal electric systems and one electric cooperative statewide. Each of those communities owns and operates its own electric distribution system. Some operate local power generation plants.
In light of these difficulties, the new committee was proposed by Princeton Mayor Joel Quiram at the September 19 meeting. The mayor said the committee was needed because the current head of the electricity department was overburdened, according to the report in the local news outlet.
Quiram listed just some of the responsibilities that fall onto the shoulders of one man — electrical Superintendent Jeff Mangrich — including electric rates, reserves, capital outlay, maintenance, and employee supervision of both the generation plant and line crew.
He said the committee’s responsibilities would include, but not be limited to, making recommendations on rates, capital projects, incentives programs, and loans made to the city from the electric department reserves.
According to BCRN, Quiram said it would be a daunting task, and committee members would need to be up to the challenge of a job that could be difficult, time-consuming – and without pay.
The Illinois Municipal Electric Agency will help write the bylaws for the committee. The city also will reach out to other communities that have established similar advisory boards for input and ideas.
The electric committee could be just the first of the city’s utility committees, Mayor Quiram noted: “My hope is that we can expand our focus to include our water and wastewater utilities as well,” Quiram told the Bureau County Republican News.