Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nice sign. Wonder if that got inspected.


Monday, March 12, 2007

We are bloggers

Dave wrote a nice piece the other day. Made me think about how I look at things since I started blogging. Blogging can actually make your life appear more interesting than it really is. It also makes me think alot more about how different people see the same issues, and how a little extra information can make the difference.
But the main thing blogging has done for me is give me an outlet for all the things I think about that many of the people around me have no interest in. Few members of my social group care very much about the coal plant. Or golf courses. Or the malting plant RR spur. These things come up in conversation and I hear something along the lines of The Citys corrupt, vote 'em all out and start over, this article on ice off walleye fishing is great, think we can get the boat on Francis yet.
And yes, as those who read here know, I will try to be on the boat. And I am quite knowledgeable about ice off walleye tactics, and midsummer, and fall walleye tactics. Jigging and cranks and spinner rigs. But there are other things I am interested in. And blogging gives a nice outlet for those things.

Tribune coverage, and contracts that are written with invisible ink.

"and conservatives who think government should keep its nose out of the power plant business."
Now I'm a conservative. No one asked if I wanted to be a conservative, I'm not even sure what the criteria are. But I have been labeled, the Tribune said so, it must be true.

"At the same time, a federal agency may decide whether to fork over a loan for 75 percent of the plant's costs."
After stating yesterday, "The RUS is ready to fund this project," it now appears that perhaps we should wait for the RUS to actually state that as fact.

The coal plant needs water, and a lot of it. The city of Great Falls has a contract with SME to use some of its water rights from the Missouri River to provide raw water to operate Highwood Generating Station.
"That's a business deal that is done," Gregori said. "The contract stands whether or not the city of Great Falls is a member of SME."

In my inquisitive, anal, conservative way, I have tried to investigate this fact. First, I attempted to locate anywhere the City had actually admitted to having "Contracts with SME"

1. 3/5/07 ECPI board meeting.
Mr. Liebert asks "is there an actual written contract with SME?"
Ms. Balzarini replies "Yes, there is a Power Purchase Contract" No other information. (sidenote. How does the City think a contract to purchase power means anything? We know ECP is buying power from SME. When people are asking for documents relating to the Joint Venture, Management of ECP, Capital Investments etc. why do we keep being told Power Purchase Agreement? It means nothing except that we are purchasing power!)

2.We all know about Geeguy. Poor guy asks and asks, and get's nuthin.
3. I went to the City website. A search for "Water service contract with SME" I get this and this.
Of note in this/these documents-Page 37, Investment in Joint Venture. Financial statements for the joint venture may be obtained at 3521 Gabel Road, Suite 5, Billings Montana 59102. Or you might get a nice letter from SME's lawyer, saying "we don't wanna give 'em to ya".

Page 53. Long term Debt. City commission adopted res. 9534 authorizing 1,500,000 (count the zero's) for ECP. term of the note is 20 years. It is intended the debt will either be repaid at the time constructuon financing is acquired, or from operating funds of the electric utility, with a pledge from the General fund as backup security for the debt obligation.

Page 65. On March 15, 2005 the City Commission approved a Water Service Agreement....
(go to commission minutes, march 15 2005)

Of note in the Agreement:

"this agreement shall commence upon the date the MDNC issues its Order approving the transfer of water rights or sale of water by the City to Southern..."
Has the City applied to the MDNC for transfer of water rights or sale of water? If the City does not apply to the MDNC is this still a binding contract?

"Southern shall be entitled to credit against said monthly billing for Southerns difference in cost of power than paid therefore by the City as set forth in that certain Agreement dated the 22nd day of October 2004"
Which "certain agreement" is of course, the infamous Power Purchase Contract. Oh, wait, no it isn't. You see, there is the PPC, then there is a document dated Oct. 22nd, which I cannot find, that evidently clarifies this statement in the PPC. "Part of the deal will be to exchange low price energy for future consideration for water for HGS. We will work out the details later."

Well, my time to blog (lunch) is coming to an end. I do not believe I learned anything in my quest for contracts. Perhaps I will continue later on.

"Do you believe a majority of county residents support the plant?"
"Yes, if their questions are reasonably answered," Lawton said.

My god, I may agree with Lawton on something.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I have spring fever so bad.
Dreaming of that first trip to a lake.
Any lake.
Reading fishing magazines just makes it worse.
Need a new fishing license.
Which store. hmm.

Maybe the river. Close, Quick.
Need firewood for that.

Ahh, spring. It's coming.

So, I’m going

to pick on the people on the Tribune forums. If anyone comes over and has a problem with that, Please, defend what you said, this is an opportunity to share you opinions.

“The last issue is on the right to vote on this issue. There is NO right to vote on this issue. We are a nation that uses representatives, elected by the people to make decisions for us. This keeps us from becoming a nation of mob rule. Our elected representative follow the laws that determine when and how the people vote on issues. The present issue does not allow a vote. Which is a good thing.”

There was a right to vote on this issue. It was taken away, by the City. How in hell, with all the controversy going on, is that a good thing?

“It does not matter whether 80 or a million turned out to protest, the law is there to protect is from a mob. What happens if a mob were allowed to force a vote that affected your rights? This is why we have laws.”

Change the word mob to citizens.
How’s that for ya. Those people down there protesting are the people that care enough to do something. You may not approve, or agree, but those are the kind of people, doing the same things that started the free country you live in, that gave you the right to vote, and assemble, equal rights and civil rights and all those things you claim to support while you sit there in judgment of those that do not agree with you.

“There are people who have much at stake here...for some it is pride..for others control....I cant think of a single group that has more at stake than the poor.”

What in hell do the poor have to do with this? Is FedEx “the Poor?” General Mills, Meadowgold, the Refinery, Benefis, Do they need help paying their electric bills?

“Putting this to a vote is a childish soultion to a serious matter and a weak-kneed approach to Democracy. You're obviously a liberal.”

Voting is a childish solution? You just pissed off every American bone in my body. Go to some other country. Or just %*&# off. Please.

“We elect our commissioners to represent us. We need to give them our input and them let them make the decision. If you don't agree with their decison, then you can vote them out of office.”

And how will voting them out help the current situation? It will be too late to do anything.

“You make the same basic mistake that so many do: The city is a minority partner in the project. You grossly overstate the city's stake. Seventy-five percent of the plant is being put up by co-ops. Are you saying the co-ops are poorly managed and run by a bunch of bunglers?”

Are you saying that the City of Great Falls stake of 130 to 180 million dollars is chump change? I do not give a crap what kind of partner the city is. I want to know what they are doing with that kind of money, and who is going to be responsible for it IF something does not work out as planned. . am I saying the co-ops are poorly managed and run by a bunch of bunglers? No. Am I saying that the City of Great Falls is poorly managed and run by… well you get the picture.

Perhaps the environmental concerns are getting most of the attention, but people have the right to voice opinions. I happen to believe there are environmental concerns. I doubt they are significant enough to stop the plant. I can live with that.

However, regardless of that, there are, obviously, other concerns. One of the biggest concerns is still developing, and really, has nothing to do with the Coal Plant except as the basis for the question.

You'll note that most of the topics covered above are more significant for people's rights and governmental issues than for debate over a coal plant.

Is our democratic, representative, by the people for the people, form of government going to continue to refuse to disclose public information when the Public asks for it?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


When asked "Why was ECPI started?", Mrs. Balzarini replied, "To represent the City in SME"

On November 1, 2005, the City Commission adopted Ordinance 2925 which restructured Electric City Power as a non-profit organization. The Official Codes of the City Great Falls (OCCGF) 5.20.040 states that the City Commission shall approve the articles of incorporation and the bylaws by resolution. Resolutions 9529 and 9530 were submitted to the Commission.

The non-profit corporation would secure and provide reliable, long-term supplies of electricity to the City, its residents and electric consumers. The proposed ordinance identified and defined the duties and obligations conveyed to the non-profit Board as well as the duties and obligations retained by the City Commission. It included items such as the purpose, powers, rules of operation, and tax-exempt obligations of the non-profit corporation and its board.

"the City of Great Falls does hereby establish an electric utility to construct, operate and maintain electric facilities in, along, across, under, or over City property: and to market or otherwise provide electric services to consumers."

The non-profit corporation would operate for the primary purpose of securing and providing reliable, long-term supplies of electricity to the City, its residents and electric consumers.

5.20.050 Purpose of the Corporation.
The Corporation shall operate for the primary purpose of securing and providing reliable, long-term supplies of electricity to the City, its residents and electric consumers.

Pardon me for being a bit slow, but in all that jumble up there, NOT ONCE does it say "to represent the City in SME."

Monday, March 05, 2007

First off, I am again going to thank Joe Briggs for his comments, not so much because it added something important to the discussion, but because it added to the discussion. It is also appreciated that Joe seems to have the unique (in politics) ability to admit he does not know something.
He also very politely hands off responsibility for additional answers to a member, any member of the City Commission who may happen to know the answers. However, I have come to the conclusion that the City must not have any answers.

Just like they don't have important documents, and instead of just telling you, you can't have them, they make you run in circles...oh wait, the City can't tell him we won't give them to you.

Free Thought notes that the answers to my questions are not really relevant to the existence of the plant, or the City's involvement in the plant. He is correct to an extent. However, I believe it is too late to worry about the City being involved, they are. Which means that we all are. It is too late to figure out why, but it would be nice to know how, and to what extent, we are involved. And the information the City had, when they got it, how they used it to justify involvement, and the expected benefits that can be deduced from that information are things that more than a few people are interested in.

Which brings me to jocko.
The first time I read his comment, I thought, what a bunch of bullshit. It kinda grated on me.
I cannot believe that someone can read that Q & A and say the questions were answered with frankness and honesty. Does that include the questions that were not answered? How is it honest to answer a question with a statement that is in no way relevant to the question? How is it honest to state that there are no suprises on the horizon, what was it, two days before you learn your price tag just shot up a couple hundred million? How can you look at the big picture here and accept that there is no risk? Isn't there a risk that it will cost more than expected, and your power won't be as cheap as you thought, and you already have signed contracts stating what you are going to sell it for, and those water credits aren't gonna bail you out forever.....

Two more things real quick.

After everything is said and done, would this power be cheaper than power that will be available on the open market in 2010?
"Over the life of the plant, absolutely," Lawton said.

What does he mean by "over the life of the plant"? When they fire up that big ass boiler, start pumping 3,200 gallons per minute out of our river, start shoveling that beautiful black coal and pumping all those EPA approved chemicals and gasses and particulate matters into Big Sky Country, obscuring the Highwoods with a gray film of soot, When Lewis & Clark start coughing in their graves, On that day, at that minute, will this power be cheaper?
(sorry, got a bit carried away there)

And didn't that one study that just came out, the one the City got to calm down the bond underwriter, didn't it just say we are now shooting for competitive prices?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

OK, ok, I'll post something.

Well, GeeGuy is all over the coal plant story. I wasn't going to blog about it, but hey, why not.

City officials said the cancellation (Northwestern contract) cost the city more than $1 million over five years.
And so far, the city, trying to see if they can build a coal plant, has cost$1 million for the water credit and $1.5million for a bunch of studies and stuff they don't even have access to.
Any of you businessmen out there willing to spend $23,000 for a briefing on a feasibility study that says it's ok to spend $130million? No, you don't get the study, but you'll be told what it says.

Lawton said he "absolutely" thinks the city is run well, but he said running a city is different from running a business.
Well, yeah, what else would he say.

In government, there can be extended discussion periods as officials try to discern what the public wants.
Or, you could let the public vote-that might help give you a clue what the public wants!

Are there any other cities you know of trying to buy into coal-burning power plants?
"They're all over the place," Lawton said.
Perhaps this is nitpicky of me, but they are not all over the place, in fact I don't believe there is a single one in this entire state.

( I wrote that yesterday. But, of course, I was right.)

I'm not going to go on, other wiser nutcases can disseminate the Q & (blow smoke up my) A.

I notice others are discussing some of the comments on the Trib Forum. I have been noticing for quite some time, one of the main things I have an issue with over there is the assumption from some of those folks that this power plant will make a difference to the average resident of Great Falls.

It will involve specialized labor. The number of construction jobs touted does not impress me. Joe Bob making minimum wage pouring concrete isn't going to get on up there. Oh, wait, Joe Bob doesn't make minimum wage, and he doesn't need a job.
There are 15 jobs posted on the Job service website since yesterday morning, with an average wage of over $9.00 per hour. Those 300 construction jobs will benefit our economy by the workers (maybe we can get some more Brazilian welders in here, really piss of the local unions! Again.) temporary stay here. Of the long term jobs, maybe 25% local employees. Max. So 15, 16 Joe Bob's get jobs.

It will not affect the price that average resident pays for power, unless the price of the default supply goes up as a result. Which, of course, will not happen. The City said so.

Will it lower our taxes? Schools, City Government, will be paying less so they will have more money, right? And every Great Falls resident who pays taxes should get a break on shipping FedEx. I mean, come on, what other benefit am I going to see?

I am a bit confused about something else. The tax thing. If the plant is not annexed into the City, as it seems will now be the case, will the City be able to collect any taxes? Will the plant sitting up there actually add to the City tax base, or will we be paying to supply municipal services to an entity that does not even bring tax revenue into the City?

The Tribune coverage on this does not impress me much. Follow up! They should do a part Two on the Q & A - Real answers to the questions!

To whom is Electric City Power planning on selling approximately 40 mW of power?

If Electric City Power ends up oweing SME money, isn't it true that the City of Great Falls would ultimately be responsible for repaying that debt?
If not, please explain.

Isn't it true that Tim Gregori, of SME, has stated there are risks involved in building a coal plant?

What are the risk scenarios that the City and SME have outlined, and the planned measures to reduce those risks?

Why did the City repeal Ordinance 2681?

Have the City and SME downplayed the possible risks to paint a rosy picture for the residents of the city?

Has the City enforced the 3 minute comment rule at any time for a discussion not pertaining to the coal plant?

"City officials acknowledge a key moment came in 2003, when NorthWestern Energy unilaterally canceled a power contract with cities and school districts across the state. "

Is it true that City officials and SME were discussing building a coal plant before the summer of 2003?