At March’s Board of Water, Electric and Communications Trustees meeting, the Trustees discussed and approved agenda items including changing the start time of Board meetings, TV package price adjustments, and a recommendation for a natural gas service provider.

Trustee meetings typically last two hours, and sometimes upwards of three hours, due to current strategic initiatives to allow for a healthy discussion of agenda items, review of resolutions, and public comments. Moving to a new start time of 4:00 p.m. will allow the Trustees and Muscatine Power and Water (MPW) to hold meetings at a time reasonable for the public to attend while respecting participants’ time commitments and family obligations.

The new time will take effect for the April 30 meeting. The Board of Trustees meetings are held the last Tuesday of each month at the Utility’s administrative offices located at 3205 Cedar Street and are open to the public. Decisions to reschedule the meetings away from the last Tuesday of the month due to holidays or other community events are approved in advance as part of a monthly Board meeting.

The Board approved a price adjustment for TV packages in response to ongoing escalation in costs to acquire programming content. Over the last year, contracts with local affiliate networks CBS (WHBH Ch 4), NBC (KWQC Ch 6), Fox (KLJB Ch 7), and ABC (WQAD Ch 8) were renewed and are the primary driver for this year’s rate adjustment. These networks rank in the top five most watched by MPW’s TV subscribers and are now some of the most expensive networks for MPW to broadcast. Programming costs for these four key networks increased 17% in 2024. Even with significant increases from these networks, Staff recommended the overall revenue adjustment effective May 1, 2024, be capped at 7%. The Board approved prices be increased at that level.

Base rate adjustments for electric and water services were previously approved at the March 2023 Board Meeting based on recommendations from electric and water cost-of-service and rate design studies. As a reminder, effective July 1, 2024, electric rates will increase an overall 1.3% and water rates will increase an overall 4%.

General Manager, Gage Huston commented, “We recognize the recommended price adjustments impact our customers. Even with the adjustments, rates for all MPW services (electric, water, internet, TV, and phone) remain competitive and below regional, state, and national averages.”

“We understand families are trying to stretch dollars. MPW is doing the same. Our benchmarking analysis confirms that MPW’s efforts to manage costs continues to benefit MPW customers approximately $5.1 million in 2023. MPW is providing best-in-class utility services for the community without our customers having to pay a premium,” concluded Huston.

To prepare the Utility for a combined heat and power generating unit, Mark Roberts, director of finance and administrative services, reviewed the selection process for a natural gas service provider. The natural gas service provider will facilitate buying natural gas for MPW, optimize and balance MPW’s forward purchases and daily natural gas supply needs, and assist with interconnecting with the pipeline and acquiring transportation capacity.

The Trustees authorized the General Manager to enter into a final contract with Constellation Energy Corporation for these natural gas services.

MPW’s change in net position (net income) for February was $491,000, which was $627,000 better than budget. All three utilities – electric, water and communications – performed better than planned but, in total, $87,000 below February 2023. Roberts noted, “February was an unusually warm month. Temperatures, as measured by heating degree days, were 31% warmer than normal.” He went on to state, “Warm temperatures, coupled with low natural gas prices, caused low MISO wholesale market prices. Unit 9 was taken offline for economics February 4 and stayed off for the remainder of February. This highlights the flexibility MPW has to take advantage of very low market prices when they are available for the benefit of our customers.”

In other action, the Trustees:

  • Approved a contract for the West Substation Utility Project to Cleary Building Corp., of Tipton, IA, for $257,450.
  • Authorized the General Manager to enter into a solar lease agreement with Lutheran Living.
  • Received and placed on file, the 2023 Annual Report (unaudited).
  • Approved the recommendation requesting the Mayor and Muscatine City Council designate May 5-11, 2024, as Drinking Water Week.