Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Bastille Day

WPEC-TV CBS12 News :: News - Palm Beach County News - Lake Worth group petitioning to put a ceiling on building height

Lots of big, bad wolf stories will be told this weekend at the doors of unsuspecting neighbors.  If any of these petition signature gatherers come to your door with outrageous stories, please share them here under the comments tab.  Click title for link to video.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reminder: It is Friday the 13th

Bill and I take our bike rides usually during the mid-afternoon time period.  We have a typical ten mile route.  We split off from each other on the return loop around Bryant Park.  Bill then uses the outdoor workout equipment (very nice addition) and I head home.

Today, in between the time that I was headed north on North Palmway and Bill finished his work out and was headed back, this tree fell over.  I might be telling a different story if I was just a little later.  A guy was getting into this red car when it happened and was visibly stunned when Bill arrived on the scene.  He didn't seem to be injured, but his car didn't fare as well.  This was just a little south of Wellesley.

A good reminder for me to carry a camera at all times.

It's not every day...

...that you can come on this blog and read about the good work done by our Lake Worth utilities and building departments.  But this is one of those days.

You can see the photos that show evidence of the electric work I've had done at my house this week.  I consolidated two original fuse panels into a new panel with new circuit breakers.  I also upgraded to a 200 amp service.  The work was done by Lightning Electric.  It took all of about four days to do what had to be done.
Where a few of the old fuse-based panels were.

New panel added around the corner and out of view of the patio area.

Yesterday was the day the electric service to the house had to be shut off so that they could make the final connections.  Thanks go out to the Lake Worth utility department for being here on time for the power cut-off.  Thanks also go out to Richard, the electrical inspector, for getting here when needed and giving a green light to the work being done and calling for the release of power.  The utilities guys were out here late yesterday afternoon and reconnected the power - all in the same day, with some other similar projects being done by the city.  Kudos to all involved.

While generally a good idea anyway, the need to go to circuit breakers was made apparent when the house was inspected for windstorm insurance.  They wouldn't issue a policy unless the fuses disappeared - which as a  requirement for windstorm insurance didn't make must sense to me.   Seems like a roundabout way to let the property casualty insurers to sleep better at night.  I don't know.  Anyway, progress made, the work is done - now for the insurers up and time to start the process again.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Editorial re Wholesale Electricity Provider - by Chip Guthrie

Submitted this morning - 7/12/12

Thank you to all who showed up at the special commission meeting (7/10) to support the commission moving forward with the 7 qualified bidders vying to be our next wholesale electric provider. The vote was unanimous and now we will get the opportunity to see and hear presentations from each bidder in hopes of hearing that they can lower our outrageously high electric bills.
One problem with this scenario is that they have some hefty hurdles to jump.
I'm learning as I go, so please bear with me. You see, the major reason our electric rates are so high, 30% to 45% higher than FPL (just as a comparison) is that our rates are set by our elected officials, not a Public Service Commission (PSC), and this is important. Not necessarily those commissioners sitting in the high chairs in the commission chambers, but many before them as well. The electric utility was always designed to be a way for Lake Worth to keep it's tax burden for its citizens low because we could supplement our low energy costs with profits helping the general fund.
Unfortunately, we now have high taxes, due to lower property values and real high electricity rates to make up for the lower tax revenue, which in turn makes for lower property values because of ultra high utility rates... and so on.
Our city general revenue taxes, what you pay with your property taxes and some other fees only make up a little over half of our city budget ($23 million). The electric utility pays in the other portion... somewhere near $9 million dollars every year. Most of our neighboring cities live within that property tax revenue without the benefit of owning their own utility. So the REAL question you start to ask is "why are other cities able to operate with just property taxes and our little town needs to soak our own residents for $9 million on top of the property taxes?"
You will hear all about our "antiquated system" , "lack of maintenance", "bad contracts", "FMPA", "Stanton Coal fired plants (#1 & 2)", the "St Lucie Nuclear Power Plant", blah, blah, blah....
All of the above contributes and complicates an issue that boils down to us wanting to pay as close to what our neighbors North and South of our city borders pay for electric power.
Here's a clue: Dropping FMPA and finding a new wholesale provider may not lower our retail rates significantly. That all depends on how much the City keeps adding to the wholesale cost to prop up the general fund.
If the city decided tomorrow to drop every penny it takes from LW Utilities, and passed that savings on to each of us, we would still pay higher rates than FPL customers...... and the city would need to find another source for the $9 million..... or we have to face cuts to  lots of things like salaries, services, library, code, sheriff, fire..... etc., etc., until they reach $9 million. Think about that.... Why aren’t the administrative costs ever cut as much as the services? Has there ever been a cut to the budgets for consultants, outside legal firms and more studies?
"Well then.... why don't we just produce our own electricity with our own power plant?" you might ask. Apparently, I have learned, that we do have one big and one medium sized generator that work together as one but they are expensive to operate, Another big one that’s 35 years old and only burns diesel. Another big one that’s 45 years old and runs on natural gas and 5 more little ones that run on diesel and are almost 50 years old, and two monsters that are good for paper weights. (and that could be stretching it) The first two mentioned are capable of producing 30 mega watts. Our peak demand is somewhere around 90 mega watts but we have to have a 15% reserve capacity on top of that.
The only way we could produce our own power at a reasonable cost is to buy new generators.
You know the "bad contracts" mentioned above? This is where bad contracts come in. Waaaaaay back during the oil embargo in the 70's I think, our generators that run on diesel were looking like a potential problem. Remember, "the earth is running out of oil", so we went looking for ways to diversify our power and entered into lengthy, cheap (then) contracts that REQUIRE us to purchase a certain amount of power each month from these sources (coal and nuclear)...... let's say 30 mega watts...... forever. Remember, it sounded like a good idea back then because it was cheaper than having to see our power plant sitting in one of those long lines stretching around the block to get 5 dollars worth.
So today, and tomorrow, and even AFTER we choose a new wholesale power provider, we will still be required to purchase the FIRST 30 mega watts from those contracts we signed back in the 80's. The rest of our requirements will be met with whatever our commission agrees to in the coming months. Those first 30 mega watts can be very expensive and our generators are still more expensive to operate than buying from the wholesale market. Actually, they are normally only fired up to supplement the system during peak draw on the larger grid.
So that brings us back to why we need a new wholesaler for our power...... there is the perception that there is SIGNIFICANTLY lower cost electricity available to us than what we were able to buy from FMPA. That is what we will find out at the presentations of the bidders. What we don’t know is if that lower wholesale cost to the City is going to mean lower retail rates for us.
Let’s now think about the difference between “municipality owned” versus “privately owned” suppliers of wholesale power to Lake Worth.
When a privately owned electric utility wants to raise retail rates they charge their customers, they must apply to the PSC, which is a group of experts in the utility industry appointed as a watchdog for the rate payers. They examine all the issues and grant or deny the rate increases based on “need vs. greed”.
Municipally owned utilities such as ours only require a vote of the commission to raise rates. In such cases, if the utility director requires an upgrade that requires rates to rise, he or she would apply to the city commission with reasons and the commission would grant or deny based on the need only. If the city commission needs more funds to operate its city, like ours does, and it happens to own its own electric utility, and ours does, it can authorize rates to rise to by a majority vote.
This might be seen as an over-simplification, but you can make your own decision as to which retail customer is better protected and which retail customer has more control; the customer who’s utility is governed by the Public Service Commission or the one who’s utility is governed by a city commission.
Our new supplier of wholesale electric IS going to be one of the above.
This is why YOU need to be involved in the discussion. Let your commissioner and Mayor know how you feel in this most important decision that affects each and every one of us for now and for the foreseeable future.
Chip Guthrie

Lake Worth fails to come to agreement over salary with auditor...

Another hit of the rewind button.  Click title for link to PBP article.  For those that seem to worship language contained in the City Charter, let's just gather around, clasp hands and read this together.

From the Article 1 of the Charter CREATION, POWER AND FORM OF GOVERNMENT:

(a) The form of government of the City of Lake Worth shall be known as the "commission-manager plan." The city commission shall constitute the governing body with powers as hereinafter provided to pass ordinances, adopt resolutions and policies and appoint a chief administrative officer to be known as the "city manager," and to exercise all other powers hereinafter provided, or conferred by law. 

(b) Elective and appointive officers.
(1) The elective officers under this charter shall be the mayor and the members of the city commission.
(2) The appointive officers shall be the city manager, city attorney, internal auditor, city clerk, police chief, fire chief, and such other officers as may be provided for by ordinance. Any of the above officers which are, or may become, under civil service shall be subject to civil service regulations. All of the appointive officers under the charter, except the city manager, city attorney, and internal auditor shall be appointed by the city manager and all appointive officers shall hold office subject to provisions of law.
(Ord. No. 96-34, § 1, 12-5-96) 

So, ladies and gentlemen, the city continues to violate this part of the Charter, this time due to perhaps not allocating the proper resources for the function of the office.  What recourse do we have if the city continues to go without an internal auditor?  

Development, Ferris wheel planned to draw visitors to Lake Worth | Dallas - Fort Worth

There is another Lake Worth, this one in Texas and named after the same General Worth.  Funny to hear about another "casino beach" in Lake Worth.  Click title for link.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Former Lake Worth mayor opposes name change | Palm Beach County News - WPBF Home

Another voice heard from, click title for link.

Glenny Anderson talks up the petition drive with an unsuspecting resident...

Lake Worth to negotiate with seven potential power suppliers

Just back today from vacation...still getting my Lake Worth land legs back.  Here is a review of what happened at last night's meeting concerning the city's electric supplier RFP.  Click title for link.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chinese Proverb

"Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow."