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Utilities board closes out a busy year

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By Katy Korkos

The final meeting of the Utilities Board for 2007 held a light agenda for the four board members and two utilities managers who attended. Two items were approved by the board, an amendment of the hydropower wheeling agreement with the Northern Rio Arriba Electrical Cooperative (NORA) and the purchase of electric transformers to restock transformer inventories. Both were approved in 4-to-0 votes, with board member Felicia Orth absent.The agreement with NORA replaces one that expired in July 2006, and had frozen rates at 3.07 mills ($.00307) per kilowatt-hour. The new agreement provides for an initial rate of 3.27 mills ($.00327), and a one-half percent escalation factor for the next nine years of the initial 10-year period. There will not be a rate increase for consumers.“In general,” said Utilities Manager Robert “Buck” Monday, “we have to pay NORA wheeling charges for 13 miles of line. We haven’t had a rate increase since 1995.” The 69 kilovolt (kV) transmission line, which was constructed by Los Alamos County, runs from the El Vado hydroelectric plant to NORA’s Spills switching station.Board Chair Chris Ortega said that the previous agreement had been negotiated while he was the utilities manager. “When we negotiated it,” he said, “they didn’t catch that there was no escalator in it.”The contract with Wesco to purchase four three-phase transformers for a total of $29,700 was chosen among three qualified bids out of nine total bidders. Delivery time on the transformers is eight to 10 weeks.The Board of Public Utilities meets monthly in the conference room in the Municipal Annex, at 901 Trinity. Meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month. The utilities department offices will be open for regular office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and closed on Christmas Day.