2016-07-22 / Letters

Voters spoke, but trustees ‘didn’t hear them’

To the editor: In June, both candidates in the KLPD trustee race made their two contrasting positions on the future of the three Mousam River dams very clear to the voters.

The incumbent favored taking them down and received 37.7 percent of the votes cast. The challenger, Daniel Bartilucci, favored keeping the dams and received 62.3 percent of the votes.

The voters spoke, but the KLPD trustees didn’t hear them. In fact, the night after the town vote, the trustees rushed to vote not to spend any further funds, except for safety reasons, not to fund a study on the long-term generation potential with modernization of new 21st technology for hydro production, and finally, and most important to the town, to notify FERC of their intention to surrender their license to produce hydropower when the current KLPD license expires 6 years from now in 2022.

This final decision was made more than eight months before the formal notification date, and it also successfully disenfranchised the 1,276 citizens who had elected Dan Bartilucci as the newest Trustee.

It’s been very clear, that chairman Kilbourn, seeing the growing local support for the dams and their local hydropower generation, had repeatedly been pushing for this early vote since the beginning of the year without studies on 1) the condition of the current generating equipment, and 2) most importantly, the long-term potential with modernization and new 21st technology for increased hydro production.

The first is still grossly incomplete, especially after finally being able to read it, and the second study still hasn’t and now won’t be done, because of the vote by the trustees.

The ratepayers, the real owners of KLPD, should demand that the trustees meet their fiduciary responsibilities by completing and then reviewing these two studies before any notice is sent to FERC before March, 2017. It’s their responsibility to protect these generating assets.

Kilbourn said that night that he was surprised by the decision to vote on notifying FERC. He shouldn’t have been. We weren’t, but we didn’t know that we’d be watching a successfully launched steamrolling session. Some of us had been told the day before at town hall that there was the 99.9 percent certainty there was going to be a vote on the dams. Some pretty good acting.

The trustees that night had responded to the Clewes Report and then to the General Manager’s Report, complete with his recommendations, all based on his very short tenure at KLPD and no prior electric utility experience.

We now know that the general manager failed, as Paul Harvey used to say, “To tell the rest of the story” to the trustees.

Familiarity or due diligence research of the district’s hydro-generating infrastructure maintenance records would have shown and he should have then included the normal, necessary, and emergency actions previous boards had taken to meet their fiduciary responsibilities. Did the new-to-the-job general manager, because this would be the most far-reaching and important decision made by the district in its history, consult with those previous trustees and previous administrators to make sure the current trustees were receiving an accurate, balanced report? No, instead he degraded them. There were previous trustees and administrators’ in the audience who could have further enlightened the trustees, but public comment was scheduled at the end of the meeting, well after the vote.

It is our understanding that “previous boards” operated with a formula for repairs, that had a payback provision. Would the repair or improvement have an adequate payback within the ever narrowing, remaining years of the current license term?

If yes, it was done. If it did not, it would be monitored and it would be delayed to wait for one, large, all-inclusive bond issuance to cover everything at relicensing with the cost of those improvements, including new 21st century technology innovations, spread out over the life of a new 40-year license.

It was anticipated that all deferred repairs, improvements, or modernizations would be made at the time of relicensing (a process which begins in 2017) if that was the alternative option chosen. If not, ratepayer money wouldn’t be lost on facilities that were to be torn down.

A good newspaper reporter could easily in one afternoon review those district maintenance records (public documents) and see the substantial repairs and improvements that were authorized by previous boards and administrators between 2006 and 2015.

The general manager, for some reason, conveniently didn’t include in his report that KLPD’s generating machinery has passed every rigorous FERC inspection in the past two decades. Nor did he report to the trustees that previous reviews determined that the necessary fixes could be rolled into the relicensing processing and long-term funding of that should have been the avenue of the district’s choice.

Nor did he report that the Wright Pierce option for retaining electric generation includes infrastructure maintenance and repair funds during the multi-year relicensing process.

The general manager then presented figures that showed the district had a 2015 net loss of $11,045, ironically a year when both he and Chairman Kilbourn were in charge. Again, selective, tilted and not the whole story. What were the net revenue figures for the last five years? Last 10 years? Last 15 years? Don’t the two of them want the ratepayers to see how much money the dams have generated and thus didn’t have to appear in the district’s monthly bills?

Those other figures should have been included, but weren’t. Why not? The trustees should have asked for them, but didn’t. It’s their fiduciary responsibility to the ratepayers to demand that they be given the multi-years report documenting hydro-production revenue gain or loss (public document).

Though the Clewes Report was on the agenda, no copies were available for the public and it wasn’t posted on the district’s website until the following day. You can’t comment when you can’t read it.

When did the trustees receive their copies of the report? The impression many of us in the audience immediately had, especially seeing visibly shaken trustee Cluff at the report’s mention of possible fire risk at Kesslen, was that the trustees must have just recently received their copies.

The general manager said he had difficulty sleeping because of the report, but this report had been delivered to the district on April 28, more than a month-and-half earlier. Crisis? Possible fire risk? Why did the general manager sit on the report for a month-and-a-half? Was it held for the right moment?

During my years in Augusta, I witnessed some really impressive instances of steamrolling someone, but that June 15 KLPD trustees meeting was the slickest one I’ve ever seen, by far.

Tom Murphy
Kennebunk Landing

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