By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Before councilors vote on bonds to pay for a federally mandated fabric filter for the city’s power plant, they want to make sure their largest customer isn’t going anywhere.
Monday the council filed, but did not vote on, a letter by Councilman James DeSana asking them to rescind a resolution they approved Sept. 12 authorizing Wyandotte Municipal Services’ notice of intent to issue bonds to pay for the filter, estimated at $10 million and mandated by a consent decree signed in May after the plant’s Boiler 7 was found in violation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act.
With power rates steadily increasing, DeSana wondered in the letter if the rate increases would eventually lead BASF Corp., the major user of steam from Boiler 7, to seek service elsewhere.
“I have a difficult time adding $10 million more … without them as a customer,” DeSana said. “The people could never afford the electric rates we would have to charge to pay those bond payments.”
The consent decree requires Boiler 7 to be shut down in three years unless the fabric filter is installed within that time. WMS has a contract with BASF to provide steam for five more years.
WMS General Manager Melanie McCoy said the department is discussing future rates with BASF and that their rates are to plateau in 2012. She said the company has expressed no desire to discontinue services with WMS.
“I believe they are a customer that is going to stay here,” she said. “They have given us no indication that they are going out. We continue to have discussions with them.”
Mayor Joseph Peterson said the discussions about BASF shopping elsewhere seemed premature.
“What if Wyandotte Hospital leaves tomorrow?” Peterson said. “What if, what if, what if? This world is full of ‘what ifs’ and if we lived on what ifs, we wouldn’t be the city we are right now.”
Councilman Daniel Galeski also suggested McCoy analyze the cost and legality of converting the plant to natural gas.
The council is expected to vote on the bonds once WMS has garnered estimates for the cost of the filter.