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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

Your View 1/28: Politics and PILOT

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Much has been said about the legality of a PILOT on the total revenues of the Sikeston Electrical System; and whether the cities who purchase surplus power from Sikeston can be forced to contribute to the PILOT. It is conceded by the supporters of the plan that those are issues which will not be resolved outside a of court of law.

I am concerned that there are issues of public policy at stake which may be even more critical than the unresolved legal issues. The objective of the present Sikeston Power Station is to supply the city with electrical energy economically and for an extended period of time. To accomplish that goal, it was necessary to build a plant with a generating capacity larger than the current needs of the city. The sale of surplus power is essential to that goal. The mission of the Board of Municipal Utilities is to manage the electrical system for the benefit of all of the utility customers.

The BMU has performed its mission well, sometimes under adverse conditions; and in recent days without the total support of the City Council. That is because the BMU has not lost sight of its duty to the citizens to successfully operate the utility system as a business. The BMU cannot fulfill its mission of continuing to provide a dependable long-range source of power and simultaneously accept the role of a fund-raiser to finance whatever projects may be deemed most important to any particular city council at any time, many of which may simple be responses to inevitable political pressures which elected officials cannot avoid. It has long been recognized that the "thorn in the side" of municipally owned utilities is politics. One certain result of the proposed PILOT will be to shift the role of the electrical system from supplying power on the best available terms to that of serving as a cash cow for the competing political needs of city government. Those needs, whether real or perceived, will shift regularly as the makeup of the City Council and competing political demands change from one election to the next. We should not allow the purpose and stability of our utility system to be so diverted.

It is appropriate that the ultimate decision on the PILOT be made by the voters, since they made the original decision to issue the revenue bonds for the construction of the power plant. The plant, by providing a reliable and economical source of power, is meeting the purpose for which it was built. The role of the power plant, the duties of the BMU to the citizens, and our ability to repay the bonded indebtedness - currently about $200 million - will all be subverted to ever-shifting political demands if the PILOT is not defeated.

James R. Robison