Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!


Written in 1788 by Robert Burns and sung to a traditional Scottish folk melody, the song's title literally means 'old long since', but is the equivalent of such sayings as 'for old time's sake'

Singing the song in Scotland at Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) quickly became a Scots custom that spread across the world, as Scots emigrated and took the song with them

Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo is often credited with popularising the use of the song at New Year's celebrations in North America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and television beginning in 1929, although it is recorded as ushering in the New Year in the States much earlier in the 19th century

Its first appearance in films was in the Charlie Chaplin movie The Gold Rush, re-released with added sound in 1942, where it is sung at a New Year's Eve party

In Japan, Auld Lang Syne is played daily to mark closing time in most large department stores, while in China it is one of the most popular mobile phone ring tones all year round

In Brazil, Portugal, France, Spain, Greece, Poland and Germany the song is used to mark a farewell

In India, the melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali song 'Purano shei diner kotha' (About the old days) composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and forms one of the more recognisable tunes in Rabindra Sangeet (Rabindra's Songs), a body of work of 2,230 songs and lyrical poems that form the backbone of Bengali music

In the Philippines, it is well known and sung at celebrations like graduations, New Year and Christmas Day

In Latin America, a salsa version of Auld Lang Syne recorded by Salsa Celtica is a regular fixture in salsa clubs, while other recording artists who have made their mark on the famous track include Funk legend James Brown and even Elvis

Syne is pronounced like sign - never zyne

And the refrain is 'For auld lang syne" - NOT 'For the sake of auld lang syne'

The original Scots version of Auld Lang Syne:

1. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o' auld lang syne.

And for auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne, We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne,

2. And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp! And surely I'll be mine! And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne.

3. We twa hae run about the braes And pu'd the gowans fine; But we've wander'd mony a weary foot Sin auld lang syne.

4. We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn, Frae mornin' sun till dine; But seas between us braid hae roar'd Sin auld lang syne.

5. And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie's a hand o' thine! And we'll tak a right guid willy waught, For auld lang syne.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Job Opportunity

RSVP has a vacancy for a Volunteer Coordinator. Click below for the job description.

Deadline to apply is January 7.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back To Business

Okay. It's time now to get back to the business of the city and our problems.

As posted here, the city (ECP) has been named in a lawsuit filed by Yellowstone Electric.

Below is an e-mail dated Dec. 18 from City Manger Doyon pertaining to this issue:

(MMIA = Montana Municipal Insurance Authority)

A few questions/concerns:

1. Who is responsible for physically doing the securing? Is it the IT (Information Technology) department, which by the way is under the supervision of fiscal services (Coleen Balzarini)?

2. As of this date, has the city complied with this directive? (The memo states ASAP).

3. Who is held ultimately liable if this doesn't happen, especially with personal computers?

4. How does this situation effect this one? We are still waiting for the judge's ruling, but if the judge should rule in favor of the plaintiff, will the public be able to view the "secret box"?

5. Will the public be able to view any other relevant correspondence since this directive? For example, I would find it hard to believe that there wasn't some communicating between Coleen and Gregori after the last ECP board meeting. After all, there was some serious questions raised about this entire endeavor.

A Great Read

For Christmas, I bought my husband Bill O'Reilly's latest book, A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity. That's not Bill's description of himself, but rather what Sister Mary Lurana called Bill back in the third grade. Of course, he agrees that she was dead-on.

As is the case with most books I buy my husband, I read them before he does. You might say I buy him books I will want to read too, which is true, but we do have similar tastes so it's like killing two birds with one stone.

This is the first book of O'Reilly's that I (we) have read, and I must say, I enjoyed it very much. (After sharing snippets of it with my husband, he thinks he will like it too). We both think along the same lines and can relate to his conservative upbringing.

According to page 3:

The following pages will prove that the sister's perspicacious remark remains relevant about fifty years after the fact. But this account is not a traditional memoir in the sense that I mean to tell you my life story. I don't want to do that, because I happen to think I'm a pretty boring guy. So a recitation of my existence wouldn't do anyone much good. Instead, I will attempt to define why I believe what I believe by telling you how those convictions grew directly out of my life experience. This tactic is designed to keep you, the reader, entertained and amused, as you and I probably have much in common, at least in the upbringing department.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Dec. 29, 2008

No meetings are scheduled this week.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This year's blessing by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI:

"May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us".

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Problems For The Sheriff

In today's paper, there is an article about the ongoing issues Sheriff Castle is having with his budget and the County Commissioners.

According to a report by KRTV, the sheriff may take legal action.

What happens with regard to this situation will effect all of us, not just those living outside of the city limits of Great Falls.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Dec. 22, 2008

Only one council is meeting this week:

When: Monday, Dec. 22 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church - 900 52nd Street North

Possible annexation and development of property at 52nd Street North
Information about the reorganized Peoples Park and Recreation Foundation
Neighborhood concerns

Sunday, December 21, 2008

You Be The Judge

Last week I reported that John Hubbard was removed from last Tuesday night's City Commission meeting. See for yourself if he disrupted the meeting:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Montana Historical Society Weighs In

The Montana Historical Society has issued a letter to the Corps of Engineers concerning the COE's permit to SME:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tonight's City Commission Meeting

Here are the highlights from tonight's meeting:

1. The blended rate scenario was pulled due to "commission action". At the five minute public comment time, Tim Gregori said he is looking forward to "ECP being on par with the other members" or words to that affect. If you attended the work session where this was discussed, please feel free to share.

2. Mr. Gessaman asked, for the record, who on the commission had looked into the "secret box". One person (Jolley) nodded.

3. Larry Rezentes, CPA, took the city to task for trying to hide the deficits of ECP through a clean audit. He said it is nothing more than, "we're going down the tubes, but the accounting is done accurately".

4. He also reiterated as did Ron Gessaman, that even though the city got an unqualified or clean audit, it doesn't mean the figures are accurate. The audit only indicates that the financials were presented fairly and according to appropriate accounting standards. Thank you Messrs. Rezentes and Gessaman. I very much enjoyed not hearing Commissioner Beecher bloviate about how accurate the city's finances are because of a clean audit.

5. Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Stebbins presented retiring planning director Ben Rangel a plaque for his 35 years of service.

6. At the close of the meeting, Mayor Stebbins wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and told everyone to be "kind to each other"; unfortunately, she said this several minutes after she had John Hubbard removed for calling the commissioners "empty-headed".

I must say this was the first meeting in a long while where the commissioners didn't have much to say. Commissioner Jolley asked a few questions, but the others made no comments.

You don't suppose this lawsuit had anything to do with that?

SME Met Their Deadline

Today, DEQ ruled that SME did begin construction of HGS before the November 30 deadline of their air quality permit. (On December 4, EarthJustice wrote to DEQ claiming that SME failed to meet their deadline).

It's not all said and done though. DEQ is still considering how to proceed concerning this violation.

Some "Secret" Items Exposed?

If you've read this suit, you probably came away learning a few things you didn't know before:

1. Once the RUS opted not to loan SME funds, SME began to court investment bank JP Morgan, who declined to loan as well. (#27, page 9)

2. SME signed a purchase agreement with Toshiba, which SME did not comply with. Now Toshiba is demanding financial penalties. (#37, page 12)

3. SME obtained a $1.25 million line of credit with First Interstate Bank in July 2008. (#38, page 13)

4. SME and its sister corporation secured a $5 million loan from Stockman's Bank in October 2008. (#40, page 13)

5. The sister corporation of SME, SME Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative owes $2.4 million to the "older" SME as of October 31, 2008. (#44, page 15)

I think we might now know some of what is contained in the "Trade Secret Box".

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Problems For SME

Last Friday, Yellowstone Valley Co-op filed suit against SME, the other co-ops and ECP. Below is the article at the Billings Gazette:
A family feud among Montana electrical cooperatives trying to build a power plant near Great Falls has escalated into a lawsuit.

Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative of Huntley filed a lawsuit Friday against Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative or SME, which is trying to build a coal-fired electric generating facility near Great Falls. The power would be shared among five Montana electric cooperatives and the city of Great Falls.

YVEC General Manager Terry Holzer said his cooperative's members have spent between $7 million to $8 million on the Highwood project had tried unsuccessfully to leave the cooperative.

"We have not been successful at being able to negotiate a settlement," Holzer said. "In addition to the added liabilities and cost exposure Southern Montana and the other systems are taking on, we feel we have to seek this action to add stability and predictability to our future."

The lawsuit said the proposed cost of the Highwood plant has doubled, from $456 million to nearly $900 million.

The lawsuit filed by Billings attorney John Crist asks that YVEC's membership in Southern Montana be terminated, that there be a financial accounting of Southern Montana's activities and damages of an
undetermined amount, including punitive damages.

The lawsuit also asked that the cooperative return to Yellowstone Valley power it was receiving from the Western Area Power Administration.

Contracts for relatively cheap hydro-electric power from the Pacific Northwest are ending and that spurred the Montana cooperatives to try to build their own power plant.

In April, SME essentially kicked Yellowstone Valley out of the project. Although SME's chief executive Tim Gregori said Yellowstone Valley knew of the vote to end its membership. The contract between the two runs 22 years.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended one of Highwood's building permits saying that further review was needed on the power plant's impact on Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's route in 1805, now declare a National Historic Landmark.

Construction on the 250-megawatt plant started in October in order to beat a November regulatory deadline set by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. However, the project has run into financial and legal troubles.

Two other lawsuits against the project are pending.

Tim Gregori, general manager of Southern Montana Electric G&T and its sister company Southern Montana Generation and Transmission Cooperative, said he received the lawsuit about 11:30 a.m. and had no immediate comment.

"Our attorneys are taking a look at it. We see this perhaps as a continuation of what we tried to address in April. Right now we haven't even a chance to read it," Gregori said.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Dec. 15, 2008

One council is meeting this week:

When: Monday, Dec. 15 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Speciality Center conference room

MSU-COT request for conditional-use permit for erecting a windmill
Presentation from the People's Park and Recreation Foundation
Neighborhood concerns

Saturday, December 13, 2008

State Supreme Court

According to more details in today's Tribune about yesterday's hearing, MEIC is planning to appeal Judge Phillips ruling of rezoning to the state Supreme Court. When I get more information about that appeal, I will post it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Opponents Lose Appeal

By a 3-1 vote, the Cascade Zoning Board has denied an appeal of the construction permit to HGS.

More details should be forthcoming tomorrow.

2007-2008 Audit Reports

Here you can find the city audit reports for YE 2007-2008. Included is the special emphasis review given to the ECP fund.

Permit Appeal Hearing

The Cascade County Zoning Board will be hearing this appeal this morning:

When: Friday, Dec. 12 at 9:00am
Where: Lottery Club section of the Paddock Club at the Fairgrounds

The board could take a vote today or delay a decision for up to 30 days.

CO2 Supplemental Appeal

Below you will find the supplemental appeal filed December 11 on the CO2 lawsuit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Needle Art

I never gave something like this a thought, much less that somebody could do it. How incredible!

I Missed It!

I missed my own anniversary.

A year ago last week, Dec. 4, marked the first anniversary of Cataract City. I remembered it was sometime in December, but went right by it.

Since it's so common nowadays to not take responsibility for one's own actions, I'm going to blame my oversight on SME, HGS, ECP and the city.

Seriously though, many thanks to all of you for your visits and contributions and to Gregg and David for their support!

Blended Rates And Next Tuesday Night

According to Commissioner Jolley, the blended rate scenario will be on the agenda for Tuesday night's City Commission meeting. (The agenda is not yet posted online):
Blended Rates is on Tuesday’s Agenda for Commission to approve or deny. My crystal ball sees a 4 - 1 vote to approve.

If commissioners were to look in the Secret Box, it might be 5 - 0 to deny but maybe I’m just an incurable opptimist.

If I was a community organizer I would gather a 100 residents to loudly chant, “Open the Box, Open the Box” at 5:30 Tuesday night.

Did SME Meet Their Deadline?

On December 4 EarthJustice wrote a letter to DEQ on behalf of MEIC, CCE, Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association claiming that "illegal construction activities do not constitute "commencement of construction" of the proposed Highwood Generating Station".

According to EarthJustice, SME has failed to meet their November 30 construction deadline:

Appeal Filed Against DEQ

Below you will find the appeal, dated Dec. 10, that MEIC, CCE, Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association has filed against DEQ for issuing the air permit for HGS.

Taken from page 1:
To accommodate SME in its rush to move the Highwood project forward without necessary improvements, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”) issued a permit modification that fails to set any limits on emissions of fine particulate (“PM2.5”) and unlawfully allows SME to circumvent pollution control requirements for hazardous air pollutants. However, SME’s eagerness to proceed with construction does not excuse full compliance with the Clean Air Act and with this Board’s orders.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ongoing Involvement

Thanks to Gregg for posting these documents concerning questions regarding the ongoing role of the ECP board and the concerns of the city manager with regard to the city's support of HGS.

As I mentioned here, Mr. Gilbert is the first one who has taken the lead in trying to resolve the ongoing problems of this flipping mess.

I am also impressed with City Manager Doyon's responses to Commissioner Bronson's memo as well.

It remains to be seen though how well the four commissioners, who are hell-bent on the city's continued support of HGS, will LISTEN at the upcoming workshops to discuss this issue.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Boston Pizza Foundation

A concerned citizen would like to know what is going on with the foundation that was built for Boston Pizza at the Twilite Center.

Boston Pizza relocated but the foundation remains and is evidently an eyesore.

Does anybody know anything about this?

NC7 November minutes

Here are the minutes from Neighbhorhood Council 7's November meeting:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Dec. 8, 2008

Three councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, Dec. 8 at 7:00pm
Where: Community Rec. Center - 801 2nd Ave. North

See here.

Addendum: Meeting is in conjunction with Neighborhood Watch.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 10 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria at 1205 1st Ave. N.W.

Peoples Park and Recreation Foundation
Info. about Center West, which occupies the former Agape Center
United Way presentation
Neighborhood Concerns

When: Thursday, Dec. 11 at 7:00pm
Where: South campus of GFHS, room 105

Peoples Park and Recreation Foundation
Neighborhood Concerns

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not A Smart Thing To Do

It sounds like things got a little heated between Sheriff Castle and the County Commissioners at yesterday's safety budget hearing.

I've heard Sheriff Castle talk about his budget problems. And like everybody else, he's struggling. One thing I did not know until I heard his presentation was that public officials are held personally liable if they exceed their budgets. I would be very concerned if I were in his shoes right now.

So what happened?

I spoke to a very reliable source who attended the meeting and he indicated that Commissioner Beltrone walked out on the sheriff.

Great. Just what we need. That kind of childish, unprofessional behavior is NOT going to help solve the problem. Grow up.

Where Are We?

I don't know about you, but with everything going on with SME, HGS and ECP, I sometimes forget what legal/governmental action is pending.

To keep up, I thought it would be helpful to have a current list of the lawsuits, appeals and hearings that are pending as of this date. If you think I've missed any, let me know. Thanks Jerry for your help. (:

1. County Board of Adjustments appeal/hearing regarding HGS land conformance permit issued to SME - brought by landowners and MEIC. Hearing is December 12, 2008.

2. MEIC lawsuit against the City of Great Falls on open records issues - originally filed October 28, 2008. Decision is still pending from Judge Wayne Phillips.

3. CCE/MEIC/Sierra Club CO2 lawsuit against DEQ/SME - this suit was originally filed June 27, 2008. Decision is still pending from Judge Phillips.

4. CCE/MEIC/Sierra Club/National Trust appeal on DEQ's issuance of air permit 3423-01 to SME. Appeal was requested to the BER (Board of Environmental Review) on November 24, 2008 and is pending.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Neighborhood Council 7 - December Agenda

Monday, December 8, 2008
Community Recreation Center, 801 2nd Avenue North
7:00 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.



Police Advisory Board
City Commission
Other Reports

Family Connections: Kim Richter
United Way Community Survey
Peoples Park and Recreation Foundation: Greg Hall
Neighborhood Concerns

Gibson Park Lighting—Park Trust Fund Matching Grant Application
Downtown Police Officer—City Commission Response to NC7 letter
Problem Properties
Other Old Business



Next meeting January 12, 2009—NeighborWorks Conference Room, 509 1st Avenue South
Election of Officers

"Cooked The Books"

No. This post has nothing to do with the City of Great Falls and their numbers game pertaining to ECP.

Ann Hedges of MEIC wrote an article in the current issue of Down To Earth, the publication of MEIC, highlighting some of the problems with HGS.

One of the issues she discusses is the rezoning of the property. We've just learned that Judge Phillips issued in favor of SME concerning the spot-zoning appeal. We should know shortly if MEIC is going to appeal his decision.

Another issue she discusses is the Construction Permit issued by Cascade County. I think you will find her explanation of what went on with that quite interesting.

She also tackles the Air Pollution Permit where she indicates that SME "cooked the books" on its hazardous air pollutant analysis.

Thanks very much Anne for granting permission to post your article.

Corps Of Engineers Suspends Permits

SME is facing an additional hurdle, which Tim Gregori claims they are "prepared to deal with."

The Army Corps Of Engineers suspended SME's water and power permits, because the review process has not been completed on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Below is the suspension letter and accompanying history:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Downtown Police Officer

Back on November 7, Neighborhood Council 7 wrote this letter to the City Commission concerning the reassignment of the downtown police officer. Here is the Commissioners' response:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"High Court Case Tests Power Plants' Water Rules"

Article from National Public Radio (NPR):
Hat tip: CCE

Morning Edition, December 2, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court hears an important environmental case Tuesday, testing whether utilities must use the best technology available to minimize harm to the nation's waterways. At issue is the physical impact on fish and the financial impact on companies.

The nation's 550 power plants use water — lots of water in some instances — that comes from lakes and rivers. Each day, more than 214 billion gallons of water is sucked into power plants across the country. That's tens of trillions of gallons each year.

The water cools the steam used in the electric generating process. And all the fish and aquatic organisms in the water are killed in the process.

In modern plants, little or no water is needed. Instead, the cooling is done with air, or sometimes with a different water system that uses small amounts of water and recycles it. The question in this case involves whether older plants must install new technology to minimize the harm to the nation's lakes and rivers.

The companies say installing the best technology is too expensive — the Bush administration adopted a rule that would allow utilities to get a variance from the Environmental Protection Agency if they can show that the cost of complying is greater than the environmental benefits.

Environmentalists contend that Congress specifically rejected the cost-benefit approach because Congress itself concluded the costs were worth the benefits to the environment. Opponents also say a case-by-case cost-benefit analysis would be too prone to manipulation.

"The Clean Water Act doesn't fare well if it becomes a cost-benefit statute," says Georgetown University law professor Lisa Heinzerling. "Lots of fish aren't really worth that much when it comes down to trying to put a dollar value on them."

Six states and environmental groups challenged the Bush administration's approach, contending that the language of the statute requiring the best technology available is clear and unequivocal. They won in the lower courts, and the utilities appealed to the Supreme Court.

The states point out that the utility plants sit on state lakes and rivers and use their water for free. In Rhode Island, for example, the Brayton utility plant takes in a billion gallons of water a day, killing every living thing in the water, says state Assistant Attorney General Tricia Jedele.

"Our fin fish and winter flounder populations have collapsed, and we've lost a viable commercial and recreational fishing resource that has been used by Rhode Islanders for millennia," Jedele says.

Environmental lawyer Reid Super adds that utility plants are enormously profitable.

"The company never said it couldn't afford it," Super says. "They just said they didn't want to do it."

But the utilities counter that Congress never intended to impose new technology costs on the industry without weighing costs against benefits.

Carter Phillips, an attorney who represents a number of utilities, says, "If you don't have at least some cost-benefits analysis that's incorporated into this approach, the possibility of having to spend literally ... hundreds of millions of dollars to save a handful of fish strikes me as palpably absurd."

If you say no cost-benefit analysis is appropriate, he adds, "then you end up with this wildly out-of-sync regulatory scheme."

Phillips contends that weighing costs and benefits is something federal and state agencies do every day, and he thinks a Democratic Obama administration may weigh costs and benefits quite differently than the Bush administration did.

"Who's running the EPA may make a big difference in terms of what the cost-benefit analysis is going to look like," Phillips says.

So, if the standards for measuring costs and benefits are going to change anyway with a new administration, does it matter what the Supreme Court says in this case? You bet it does.

For more than a quarter-century, industry has tried to put a cost-benefit overlay on environmental regulations. In the past, that effort has often come a cropper in the courts. Now, with the Supreme Court's new conservative composition, industry thinks it has a good shot at winning — and winning in a way that will affect all environmental regulations.

We Should Find Out Next Week

According to this article, the DEQ inspected HGS on Monday, Dec. 1, to determine if construction had begun. According to the permit, concrete foundations had to be poured by Nov. 30.

The DEQ still has to determine if they will impose penalties against SME for beginning work on the site prior to Nov. 26.

Stay tuned.

Will They Now Look In "The Box"?

Now that the ECP board voted 5-0 to recommend the blended rate scenario to the City Commission, will the other commissioners finally look inside the "Trade Secret Box?"

Commissioner Jolley has indicated there is documentation in the TSB about the blended rate and the reasoning behind suggesting it.

As of yesterday, she had not heard of any other commissioner reviewing the contents.

Why is this?

Are they afraid they might find out Tim has bamboozled them and that the public was right all along? (I'm sure that would be a tough pill to swallow).

Or maybe, they're afraid they would let something slip and find themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Regardless, I don't see an option. They're behind the eight ball. They have a responsibility to do what they were elected to do; represent the citizens, and that means looking into that box.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"What Is Our Stake"?

I attended the ECP board meeting last night, and will share with you in a couple of posts what was discussed. Rich Ecke's article can be found here in today's Tribune.

I am very impressed with new board member John Gilbert. He asks very thought provoking questions and makes suggestions. As an accountant, he is in a position to question Coleen about the numbers and the way they are reported on the financials.

He is not at all comfortable with the city's relationship with a corporation that is entitled to confidentiality, which echoed City Manager Greg Doyon's comment. Mr. Doyon said the first thing that needs to be resolved is the structural relationship between the two entities. Other members agreed, with Chairman George Golie indicating that if not, there will continue to be more lawsuits and appeals.

As was reported in Mr. Ecke's column, Mr. Gilbert asked the question, "should the city be in the power business?" He questions the city's expertise and indicated that if the city decides to stay in the power business, then maybe a power expert and a lobbyist be hired. Member Bill Ryan mentioned the rewards, but Mr. Gilbert was adamant that the risks be analyzed as well. Is the city willing to take the risks? He reiterated that the electric fund needs to make money, not just break even. The higher the risk, the more compensation the city should receive.

Mr. Gilbert indicated that the power contracts ECP has are probably more profitable to SME than to ECP because they could be used by SME as collateral since it seems these contracts are listed as an asset. Coleen explained that the contracts belong to ECP and cannot be sold. It was then suggested that perhaps ECP could be sold.

He freely admits that he cannot "wrap his head around" parts of the relationship with SME and the other entity that is building HGS. He indicated it's very difficult for ECP to advise when they don't have all of the information. He suggested that since the ECP board is not able to see what is in the "Trade Secret Box" that perhaps the City Commissioners, who do have access to it, should be the board members of ECP. The current board could remain strictly advisory.

Chairman Golie wants to know what the city's stake is in all of this. Mr. Gilbert indicated that it would be nice to know what SME's bylaws say. Members of the audience were in total agreement.

After listening to Mr. Gilbert's questions and concerns and hearing how few answers and information his fellow board members could give him, it really hit home how inconsequential this board has been.

Mr. Doyon was absolutely correct when he said the city needs to move forward and review prior resolutions and figure out what the goal is for the future.

Monday, December 1, 2008

MT Eighth District Court Ruling

Hat tip: CCE

Here is the formal ruling from Judge Wayne Phillips concerning the spot-zoning issue of HGS.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Dec. 1, 2008

There are two council meetings this week:

When: Wednesday, Dec. 3 at 7:00pm
Where: Sunnyside School music room

MSU-COT request for a conditional-use permit to erect a windmill
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7:00pm
Where: Westgate Mall conference room

Presentation by United Way
Neighborhood concerns

NC#6 is also looking for a registered voter to fill a vacancy. If you live in the neighborhood and are interested, call Patty Cadwell at 455-8496 or e-mail her at

Saturday, November 29, 2008

ECP Board December 2008 Meeting

When: Monday, Dec. 1 at 5:30pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

Call to Order 5:30 PM
Roll Call

Financial Reports
Restated June 30, 2008
Year to Date
Historic Rate Comparisons, October 2004 – June 2008
HGS Status Update
Miscellaneous Reports

Blended Rate Recommendation

Accept Board Meeting Minutes from November 3, 2008
Resolution 2008.0001 Establishing a Five Minute Comment Period


Public Comment


January 5, 2009

Judge Rules In Favor Of SME

In today's Tribune, there is this article about the judge's ruling concerning spot zoning:
Montana District Judge Wayne Phillips of Lewistown ruled Friday afternoon that the County Commission's rezoning of the plant site did not constitute spot zoning in an agricultural area.

Tim Gregori, Billings-based general manager for the Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative, which is developing the project, was buoyed by the decision.

"I think that it just underscores that the county was very thorough in their process," Gregori said. "We will continue to proceed."

"Basically, he ruled against us on all counts," said Anne Hedges, program director for the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. "It's quite likely we will appeal."

She said the group has lost before at the district court level only to prevail before the Montana Supreme Court. Some landowners near the project site also are in plaintiffs in the suit.

While Hedges was disappointed with the outcome, she praised Phillips for making a prompt decision.

"He acted expeditiously, as we asked him to do," Hedges said. "We just think he got it wrong."

Gregori praised the judge's conclusions.

Opponents of the coal-fired power plant, an $850 million, 250-megawatt facility, said in the filing that a power plant was not compatible with the area's rich agricultural nature. Phillips said the plaintiffs' best argument on spot zoning was that the rezoning would benefit one landowner at the expense of others. However, he said the project did not meet the other two criteria for spot zoning — that there was a change of land use and that the 668-acre site to be rezoned was a small part of the whole area.

Phillips said Cascade County's zoning already allowed electrical generation facilities in A-2 agriculture areas, as long as the project obtained a special-use permit.

Hedges said she believes that conclusion was reached through odd logic.

Gregori agreed with the judge's interpretation.

"We had reached the same conclusion," Gregori said.

Phillips said heavy industrial zoning was required so the project site would qualify for special tax-increment financing, where all property taxes generated by new development in the area would go into a fund to pay for new roads, water and sewer lines, as well as other improvements.

Early construction work began at the power plant site eight miles east of Great Falls along Salem Road in mid-October. Gregori said he was at the site Wednesday when concrete was poured. The state Department of Environmental Quality recently took SME to task for starting construction too soon, but added that work would be allowed beginning Wednesday. The project has until Sunday to meet construction requirements of a state air-quality permit, including poring a portion of the plant's foundation.

Phillips referred to the deadline in his ruling, noting "a serious and consequential deadline looms."

Power plant developers have taken a roller-coaster ride in obtaining permits and fighting various appeals and challenges at the court and administrative levels. Aside from those skirmishes, the project also continues to seek permanent financing.

Opponents claim the plant would pollute the air too much and contribute to climate change. Supporters say the plant would broaden the county's tax base and be one of the country's cleanest coal-fired acilities.

In his ruling, Phillips said county commissioners did not ignore public comments, but acted "clearly and convincingly."

In a series of decisions, he ruled against the landowners' and MEIC's motion for summary judgment that would have decided the case in their favor. Phillips also refused to authorize several writs, or formal documents, on the plaintiffs' behalf.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot ail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to he ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

A. Lincoln

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

SME's Response

Hat tip: Gregg

Here is a press release from SME concerning the DEQ's violation letter.

Request For Hearing Explained

In today's Tribune, there is an article describing the reasoning for the filing of the BER Request For Hearing:
Four conservation groups are again taking aim at invalidating an air-quality permit for the coal-fired Highwood Generating Station in an appeal filed Tuesday with the Board of Environmental Review.

Jenny Harbine, an attorney with Earthjustice, said the plant lacks effective emissions controls to protect the public's health from fine particulate and hazardous pollutants, including mercury. Earthjustice is representing Citizens for Clean Energy, the Sierra Club, the Montana Environmental Information Center and the National Parks Conservation Association in the appeal.

The filing comes a day after Southern Montana Electric and Generation Cooperative, the plant's developer, stopped construction of the plant eight miles east of Great Falls. Work was halted following notification from the state Department of Environmental Quality that the terms of the power plant's air permit didn't allow work to begin until today.

SME broke ground on the site last month.

"SME has brushed aside public health concerns in its rush to construct the Highwood oal plant," Harbine said.

SME CEO Tim Gregori said construction would resume today, with crews pouring concrete.

The group of rural electric cooperatives needs to begin foundation work by Sunday or its air-quality permit becomes invalid. Dan Walsh, a DEQ air compliance supervisor, said the agency would be inspecting the site sometime after Sunday.

"We like to show up at these sites unannounced," he said.

The air-quality permit case will be on the agenda of the Board of Environmental eview on Dec. 5, said Chuck Homer, permitting and compliance manager in the DEQ's Air Resource Management Bureau.

"I'm disappointed they thought they needed to take this back into litigation," SME attorney Ken Reich said of the appeal.

It's the second time the permit has been appealed.

However, National Parks Conservation Association was not involved in the first filing, Harbine said. The group has joined the cause because it is worried about the power plant's footprint on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Landmark, she said.

In the first appeal, filed late last year, the groups asked for better controls for carbon and particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller, called PM2.5.

The board rejected the carbon argument, but in May it sided with the groups on the PM2.5 issue, ordering SME to look at better controls for the particulate matter.

Harbine said the technology SME came up following the ruling still falls short, leading to the new appeal. The groups also want the DEQ to set a limit for PM2.5 emissions.

"This is DEQ's opportunity to go back and get it right," Harbine said.

"It was a very thorough analysis," Reich said of SME's work on controlling PM2.5 emissions, which involved studying more than 100 types of technologies.

The groups also are asking the DEQ to set emissions limits for hazardous pollutants and to require a maximum achievable control technology review.

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected an Environmental Protection Agency attempt to substitute a cap-and-trade program for a strict emissions-control program. The more stringent program, which was in place under the Clinton administration, requires "maximum achievable control technology" to limit hazardous pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants.

As a result of the court ruling, coal-fired power plants that emit a combined 25 tons of hazardous pollutants, or 10 tons of any individual pollutant, may have to install additional emission controls.

In its revised air-quality permit application, which the DEQ approved Nov. 10, SME said the additional controls it will use to limit PM2.5 emissions also will reduce the power plant's emissions of hazardous pollutants to 24.4 tons. If the plant can remain below the 25-ton threshold, it would be considered a minor source of hazardous pollutants, meaning it wouldn't be subject to the maximum achievable controls.

"We're seeing this across the country, where power plants are proposing these minimal emissions controls that benefit the plant by allowing it to avoid much more expensive controls of all of its hazardous air pollutants," Harbine said.

Reich said the revised permit is a significant improvement because the power plant could have emitted more than 25 tons of hazardous pollutants under SME's original permit.

"Rather than continue under the current permit, we decided to voluntarily limit our emissions to less than that threshold and we're accomplishing that by a new technology," he said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BER Hearing

Here is the Request For Hearing filed yesterday to the Board of Environmental Review with regard to appealing the air-quality permit issued to SME on Nov. 10, 2008.

HGS Construction Photos - 11/16-11/24/08

Photos taken 11/16 and 11/24/08:

SME Stops Construction

UPDATE: Here you can find a copy of the violation letter from the state to SME: Thanks, Gregg.

According to this article in Tuesday's Tribune, SME voluntarily stopped construction Monday at HGS:

Construction at a coal-fired power plant east of Great Falls was halted Monday after the state alleged that developer Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission had jumped the gun in beginning construction last month.

"This violation letter is being issued based upon the department's initial determination that a violation has occurred," wrote Robert Gallagher, an environmental engineer specialist in the Department of Environmental Quality's Air Resources Management Bureau, in a letter sent to SME on Thursday.

With SME facing a Nov. 30 deadline to finish preliminary construction on the foundation or face losing its air-quality permit, the delay is significant, according to Ken Reich, an SME attorney.

SME officials, who contend it was not illegal to begin construction, said the decision to send workers home was voluntary.

"We're not going to buck the state," Reich said.

Up to 40 workers had been working on the site, and the final 15 to 20 guys were sent home Monday, SME CEO Tim Gregori said.

The DEQ letter alleges SME violated the law because a final permit must be on hand before starting construction on facilities that emit hazardous pollutants.

SME broke ground Oct. 15, but its air permit in regard to hazardous pollutants, approved by the state Nov. 10, isn't "final and effective" until Wednesday or 15 days after its issuance, according to the DEQ.

Construction could resume as soon as Wednesday, but that isn't likely because of the Thanksgiving holiday, SME officials said.

SME officials, noting Highwood will be a minor and not a major source of hazardous pollutants and therefore not subject to tougher rules faced by major-source emitters, questioned the state's position on the construction timeline and added state officials knew in advance when construction would commence.

"We were quite surprised," Gregori said.

DEQ could ask for a penalty of up to $10,000 a day but has yet to do so, the DEQ's Chuck Homer said.

The agency did not demand that construction be halted, he said.

The DEQ issued an air permit to SME to build the 250-megawatt coal-fired power plant in May 2007, but the permit at issue now is a modified version that covers just hazardous air pollutants and fine particulate.

When the original permit was issued in 2007, under Bush administration rules, coal-fired power plants were not subject to so-called "maximum achievable control technology" review for mercury and other hazardous pollutants. MACT is the toughest form of regulation.

But in February, a federal appeals court decision ruled coal-fired power plants should not be exempt, which raised the possibility of the reinstatement of the so called MACT rules, which had been in place under the Clinton administration.

The federal appeals court decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As result of the regulatory flux, SME asked for a modification to its original air permit. It proposed lowering its emissions of hazardous pollutants to fewer than 25 tons, which would make it a "minor source" of hazardous pollutants and not a major source, and therefore not subject to the MACT requirements.

Even though it will be only a minor source emitter of hazardous pollutants, the DEQ said SME still needs "a final effective permit to bring their potential emissions below major source HAP (hazardous pollutants) levels" before beginning construction.

"Therefore, construction activities at the SME facility are prohibited until at least Nov. 26," Gallagher wrote in the letter.

SME officials said the hazardous portion of the air permit could have been issued much sooner but was delayed because the DEQ processed its analysis of fine particulate matter. SME was ordered to do more work on controlling fine particulate by the Board of Environmental Review.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars"

What: A film screening featured by MEIC and CCE

When: Tuesday, November 25 at 6:30pm

: GF Public Library
A discussion follows the film. Admission is free.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Nov. 24, 2008

No meetings are scheduled this week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

National Park Service Letter

Here is the latest letter from the National Park Service to Montana members of Congress:

HGS Construction Photos - 10/20-11/08/08

More photos found here. Aerial photos will be added on a weekly basis as weather permits.

Aerial shot taken November 6, 2008

Blended Rate Vote

Here, I wondered how Mr. Doyon could vote in favor of a blended rate scenario, when the City Commission had not yet entered a decision regarding that.

Gregg has Mr. Doyon's response.

Can They, Or Can't They?

On December 12, the Cascade County Board of Adjustment will hear an appeal of the Zoning Administrator's decision that earth moving and construction activity at the HGS site does not require a location/conformance permit.

According to the agenda, see below, public comment is not allowed until after the board has made its decision. Mr. Jerry Taylor, taxpayer, has taken issue with this situation.

What follows are the e-mails sent between him, Brian Clifton, Cascade County Planning Director and Brian Hopkins, Cascade County Deputy Attorney. Mr. Taylor also cc'd the County Commissioners.

Why is Mr. Taylor was so adamant about getting clarification on this matter? Simply put, he was told, emphatically, by the legal team of MEIC that that part of the agenda that allows for argument in favor of the appeal (b) is strictly for them; their arguments and witnesses, not for the public.

I agree with Mr. Taylor's concern. For the attending public, all they will see is this agenda, which does not indicate the public has the right to comment before the board takes action on this appeal. Section b indicates: "Argument in favor of the appeal (appellant or agent)". Does appellant or agent sound like John Q Public to you? It doesn't to me.

Not only that, the board chair is not Mr. Clifton or Mr. Hopkins. Mr. Tim Wilkinson is the chair. Is somebody going to inform him that Mr. Taylor was told he could comment before the board takes action on this appeal? Is somebody going to tell him that Brian Hopkins indicated that Mr. Taylor should be able to respond. Note: "should" does not mean "can".

I am not at all convinced from this dialogue that Mr. Taylor or any other member of the public will be able to comment prior to board action. If they will be able to, as Mr. Hopkins seems to indicate, then the agenda needs to be amended to say that.

Let's get this situation clarified before the meeting, because otherwise, I have a feeling things could perhaps get uncomfortable for some.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Logo Poll

In my poll from a couple of weeks ago, 17 of you think the city should keep the current logo, while 5 of you think it should be changed. 11 of you don't care. Personally, I like the current design.

Next year marks the 125th anniversary of Great Falls, so it was mentioned that holding a contest for a new logo design next year would be very timely. The assistant city manager said the city would be open to helping with that.

If you are a graphic design artist, stay tuned.

Not Amusing

In today's Tribune, in The Edge section, there is this little ditty:

Cameraman cameo

"What a waste of time," said John Watts after recent comments at a county commission meeting by a Highwood Generating Station critic.

The critic, Ron Gessaman, had just told commissioners he wasn't pleased with the county's response to his request for every e-mail, from every department relating to Highwood Generating Station.

Watts, who records commission meetings for the cable access television channel, left his camera and walked to the podium, where he mockingly requested all information the county had relating to the parting of the Red Sea and the Kennedy assassination.

He wrapped up his unusual appearance in front of the camera by telling Highwood critics to "shut up."

Taking Aim

Here, you will find a letter from the National Trust For Historic Preservation taking aim at the Corps of Engineers for allowing SME to proceed with HGS even though the review process of Section 106 is not completed.

Hat tip: Gregg

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Power Plant Costs

Here is an article about the future of power plant costs written by the vice president of R.W. Beck. Remember them?

What is real interesting is the graph on page 4. For the folks who regularly hear Tim Gregori speak at city meetings, he usually infers that wind is more expensive.

Hat tip: CCE

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Animal Shelter Update

Last night, Greg Doyon informed the commission that he is working with the Animal Foundation, albeit slowly. He indicated they are discussing who would be responsible for what and are reviewing the existing plans.

Stay tuned.

Park & Rec. Survey Deadline

This survey is a painless way to get involved in city government. But time is running out. You have only until Monday, Nov. 24 to complete.

It takes only a few minutes to complete online.

Power Rate Worksheets

Below, you will find attachments from last night's slide presentation on power rate comparisions between SME and NWE. The ECP numbers reflect very closely what those customers paid for their power.

The 2009 numbers on page 5 reflect the numbers for July 2008.

According to Coleen, the figures paid to SME are exact. So why then does the July 2008 payment to SME on page 5 not agree with what has been reported on the consent agenda's $5,000 report?

According to the $5,000 report, the payment to SME was $855,058 (807,320 + 47,738) for July power. The report presented last night indicates a payment of $886,768. That's a $31,710.00 difference.

Does this represent a timing difference (some invoices are being received after the books are closed for the month) or are additional monies paying for something else?

Power Rates Explained

I attended last night's City Commission work session and thought the presentation from Coleen Balzarini on the electrical rates was one of the most disjointed and confusing explanations I've ever heard.

After all is said and done, the city has lost at least $150,000 by going with SME instead of staying with Northwestern Energy.

Gregg was there as well and his thoughts are here.

Oh, by the way, I was very surprised. Tim Gregori was not present. Maybe that's why Coleen just didn't seem, to me anyway, confident in her presentation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Does His Vote Mean?

Here, Commissioner Jolley tells us that Greg Doyon voted "yes" at the SME board meeting with regard to blended rates and that the City Commission has to approve this blended rate scenario.

According to this article in today's Tribune, ECP is supposed to make a recommendation to the city about blended rates at its Dec. 1 meeting and possibly later in December the City Commission will vote on it.

A couple of questions:

* How could Mr. Doyon even vote on this deal when the city hasn't entered a decision?

* But since he has voted in favor of it, what happens if the City Commission doesn't approve this blended rate scenario? Are we going to end up stuck in some "agreement" that will take a law suit to straighten out?

I'm confused.

More Of The Same?

At tonight's work session, Coleen Balzarini is supposed to give rate comparisons between ECP, Northwestern Energy and SME.

I wonder if she is going to "provide the other commissioners and the ECP Board with the documents in the "Trade Secret Box' that make reference to this blended rate issue".

I'll be very surprised if Tim Gregori is not at this meeting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where Oh Were Has Our Little Dog Gone?

More than two months ago, on September 2 to be exact, Commissioner Rosenbaum appointed himself and few others to a "construction committee" to begin work on the new Animal Shelter. He was quite confident they could finish their work in "less than a month."

Well, here it is, 60+ days later and......nothing.

Anybody heard anything?

Blended Rates

Following are e-mails between Coleen Balzarini (red) and Mary Jolley (blue) concerning the blended rate discussion from the past two ECP board meetings. These e-mails were also sent to the other commissioners, the ECP board members, Greg Doyon and Cheryl Patton:

From Coleen:

Subject: Proposal to modify rate structure from Southern to ECP
Date: Fri, 7 Nov 2008 12:20:53
(Th)e attached information regarding change in rate structure has been discussed at the last two ECP Board meetings. Cheryl indicated the chart was helpful to her and suggested I distribute to the City Commission. Please let me know if I can provide additional information. If you have problems opening or reading the documents let me know and I will get a hard copy to you. Coleen

From Mary Jolley:

Sent: Friday, November 07, 2008 2:25 PM
Subject: RE: Proposal to modify rate structure from Southern to ECP

Re: ECP Energy expense and revenue comparisons

"The Southern board has already taken action approving the blended rate concept"

Please provide the documentation showing what the Southern Board approved. Did you vote Coleen? How did you vote?
Comparing the past rates paid is not a good comparison. We have never gotten the "cheap" power. You have said that our rates are cheaper now than SME's or Southern if that is what Company name we are using. In your rate comparison how have you accounted for the water credits.

Please provide the other commissioners and the ECP Board with the documents in the "Trade Secret Box' that make reference to this blended rate issue.

Mary Jolley

From Coleen, one week later:

Subject: RE: Proposal to modify rate structure from Southern to ECP
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2008 11:46:59 -0700
Commissioner Jolley,
Greg has asked me to reply to certain portions of your email of November 7, in regards to comparisons, water credits, and cheap power.

Rate comparisons
The comparisons between pass through, blended, NWE, and ECP customer rates that I distributed were prepared in response to a request of the ECP Board members at the October meeting. I indicated that using past consumption data, energy payments and receipts would allow me to provide the Board with a comparison that uses past consumption data applied to one estimated but still unknown variable (blended rate, yet to be established at a time when the Commission accepts the offer) against three known variables (payments to Southern, revenues from ECP customers, NWE tariffed rates),

I forwarded the comparison on to the City Commission at the suggestion of the Assistant City Manager. That is not to say that other comparisons cannot be made. In order to make other comparisons I will need to know what factors to use as the alternatives.

Water Credits
The accounting transaction related to water credits recognizes energy expense in the period it is consumed and the obligation to compensate Southern for that use in a future period in the form of raw water provided from City water sources to operate the plant. In my comparisons, expense related to the water credit is included in the amounts billed by SME.

Cheap Power
I am not sure if you are asking a question in regards to your statement on cheap power. If so, please be more specific on what you are asking.

Note: Coleen never did respond to Commissioner Jolley about her requests regarding what SME approved, whether or not she (Coleen) voted and how she voted.

Commissioner Jolley's response:

Subject: RE: Proposal to modify rate structure from Southern to ECP
Date: Fri, 14 Nov 2008 22:38:11 +0000
Thanks for the response. I was not asking a question about cheap rates. Mr. Doyon mentioned something about the 1.4 million dollar deposit in reference to blended rates. I do not think you said anything about the deposit when you reported to the Board. He also said something about the inbalance payments. Do the imbalance payments have anything to do with the blended rates?
Is there information you are uncomfortable sharing with the Commissioners or Board because of "Trade Secrets"?

I know there is background information in the secret box about blended rates. I think the rate comparisons are not at all predictive of the future. I do agree with you on that.

From the October 2008 minutes .....

Ms. Balzarini provided background information when ECP first started receiving energy, wholesale rate plus imbalance charges, versus the other coop members’ blended rates. She explained the blended rate as a flat rate based on historical information and is more consistent. However, the potential of making more money exists if ECP keeps its own contracts. She believed the plusses of a blended rate outweighed the minuses of potential higher returns on imbalance sales. ECP now has the option of going to the blended rate, or continuing the status quo through 2011. Mr. Pancich inquired if the Board needed to make a decision now. Ms. Balzarini responded that the Board can wait until the contracts expire, but then customers will see a significant increase in 2011. The Board directed Ms. Balzarini to obtain a copy of the blended contract for review. An addendum would need to be added to the existing contract and a recommendation made to the City Commission to approve the amendment.

Blended Rate.
In order to explore the feasibility of going to a blended rate versus the status quo, John Gilbert moved, seconded by Bob Pancich, and approved by roll vote, that this Board review the blended rate contract and perform a review of additional numbers. Mr. Ebeling requested a graph of two different scenarios. Ms. Balzarini responded that she would provide six months for comparison with the existing customer base. Motion carried 4-0.

Public Comment.
Mary Jolley (address deleted) thanked the new Board members for serving. Commissioner Jolley suggested that the Board read the SME meeting minutes regarding the blended rates to help with their recommendations to the City Commission. From the minutes above you mention, "but then customers will see a significant increase in 2011." Would you be able to share with us how you have arrived at thye above projection, or is there a "trade secret" problem? I am glad the board will be able to look at the blended rate contract and provide some advice to the Commission.

Thanks again
Mary Jolley