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Residents of Millersburg will get their best chance to gather information directly from the parties involved on Tuesday in what has become a hotly contested issue within the city.

The Millersburg City Council is holding the first of two scheduled public forums at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road in Albany, to discuss a possible switch to a Municipal Utility District (MUD) for its electricity needs. The two-hour meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

At the urging of the city’s largest employer, ATI Wah Chang, the council approved a study to gather information on the feasibility of switching to an MUD last fall. Wah Chang paid for the initial study by D. Hittle & Associates of Lynnwood, Wash.

Hittle’s findings came back early this year, providing a favorable nod to have the city taking over as power supplier. Pacific Power, which has been generating the city’s power for over 35 years from its Murder Creek Substation in Millersburg, immediately took issue with the Hittle proposal.

Some discussion of the issue has taken place at city council meetings, and websites for the city and Pacific Power were set up to provide information. Tuesday gives residents a chance for face-to-face interaction with the council and representatives from Hittle, Pacific Power and EES Consulting, which was hired by the city to conduct a peer review of Hittle’s study.

Hittle’s findings indicated that Millersburg electrical customers would save nearly 40 percent on rates with smaller but still impressive savings due for commercial and industrial customers. In a 10-year span it predicted customers would save $59.7 million.

Millersburg would need to start its own municipal electric company at a price tag of $13.6 million, according to Hittle. That number was based on Millersburg buying the substation.

The wholesale power supply for the city would be met by purchasing electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) at it’s lowest possible Tier 1 rate.

Pacific Power took issue. It said that Hittle’s estimation of projected higher rates by the company were exagerated. It also said it would not be a willing seller.

It was also found that Wah Chang would not qualify for lower tier rates. It’s rates, however, would likely drop nonetheless by buying power at market cost, according to the consultants.

The city then dug into its pocketbook and authorized a peer review of Hittle’s study. EES of Kirkland, Wash., was hired in March. It’s predictions backed up many of Hittle’s claims estimating an overall savings.

To acquire Pacific’s infrastructure would likely result in condemnation litigation, since the power company isn’t planning to sell.

Pacific hosted a work session for the council last Monday, providing an overall view of the Murder Creek substation and its technical aspects that serve customers throughout the mid-valley. Only around 800 ratepayers are located in Millersburg. Nine of 10 are located outside the city.

The utility emphasized again that it is not willing to sell and that the cost of rebuilding would by as much as $41.5 million for the city. The peer review claims the cost would be closer to $23 million.

The city has complete copies of the feasibility study and peer review posted on its website at www.millersburgcitypower.com, and copies are also available at Millersburg City Hall, 4222 Old Salem Rd N.E.

Pacific Power also has information on the issue on its website at www.pacificpower.net/millersburg.

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Steve Lathrop is the business reporter for the Albany Democrat-Herald. He can be reached at 541-812-6076 or by email at steve.lathrop@lee.net.

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