Cheney hit with unexpected electric bill

Overly optimistic BPA load projections and lower market resale prices lead to increase, which will be assessed on city payments


Cheney’s City Council found itself in the unenviable position at Tuesday night’s meeting of having to approve payment of a bill it didn’t anticipate and didn’t have much of a hand in creating.

The council approved a $25,953 in Tier 2 power costs above what had been forecasted for use in 2014. The increase comes from the Northwest Intergovernmental Energy Supply Group, composed of 22 member utilities of which Cheney is one, and is based upon overly optimistic projections and lower than anticipated resale prices.

Cheney Light Department Director Joe Noland told the council that under the group agreement, Cheney was required to buy power in 2010 for its use in 2012-2014. Bonneville Power Administration calculated each member’s load forecasts for the time period based upon historic growth rates and economic indicators, one of which that the recession the country was in wouldn’t last long, based upon prior recessions.

BPA was correct in its load quantity forecasts for 2012 and 2013, but ramped up forecasts for 2014, something that was overly optimistic. The group was required then to try to sell back the power, and did so at rates lower than what it was purchased.

The extra costs won’t be invoiced at once, but rather over each Tier 2 power payment the city makes. Noland added that the group is taking measures to prevent something like this from happening in the future such as working on elements of its commitment agreements to provide more flexibility and moving from an open to a closed power pool.

The council also approved a resolution to provide a school resource officer for the Cheney School District in 2013-2014 school year. The school district previously ratified the agreement at their Sept. 11 meeting

Police Chief John Hensley noted there were two changes to the agreement that has been set up to provide a uniformed officer in schools since 2005. The new agreement will provide an officer with the rank of sergeant, bumping the compensation paid by the district to the city to $113,721 but allowing for the officer to be in the school buildings for the entire 185-day school year rather than three-quarters of the time.

The district also agrees to purchase a fully-equiped police vehicle along with providing all the maintenance and fuel needed. The district will reimburse the city for vehicle lease payments, the first being $23,000 and thereafter $11,500 until the vehicle is fully paid for, not to exceed $41,000.

If the vehicle ever needs to be disposed of, the district will decommission it, with the vehicle’s emergency equipment remaining with the city and the proceeds of any sale going to the district.

“I think it’s a really good deal for the city and the district both,” Hensley told the council.

In the only other resolution on a relatively light agenda the council approved allowing Cheney High School to conduct an aerial fireworks display following their Homecoming game Oct. 18. Fire Chief Mike Winters said his department will conduct a pre-event location inspection and be onsite through its duration.

In information items, the council received a presentation from Spokane Regional Transportation Council executive director Kevin Wallace outlining the SRTC’s regional transportation plan through the year 2040. The plan projects revenues and expenses needed to maintain and improve transportation in the region, including mass transit and freight corridors, at $10.9 billion for the 26-year period, with both coming from a variety of sources.

Several council members expressed frustration with the fact that it didn’t appear that widening SR 904 was a very high priority within the plans of not only SRTC, but also Spokane County Commissioners and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Councilwoman Teresa Overhauser, noting that Wallace’s presentation indicated 29 percent of the county’s major roads and highways were in poor condition, said that while some jurisdictions in the area did poor jobs of planning for their infrastructure and transportation needs, Cheney seemed to be penalized for being proactive in taking care of theirs..

John McCallum can be reached at


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