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FELPS board makes ambitious plans
Wilson County NewsNovember 21, 2012 | 2,848 views | 1 comment
FLORESVILLE -- It will cost $28,701,070 to operate the Floresville Electric Light & Power System (FELPS) during 2013, according to an operating budget adopted Oct. 31 by the utility’s board of trustees. FELPS’ fiscal year follows the calendar year, meaning the budget becomes effective Jan. 1.
The operating budget bears a strong resemblance to those from years past. According to FELPS’ budgetary data, $27,228,000 was allocated for operations in 2012. As of August, it was projected that the year would end with just $25,577,500 being spent.
While General Manager Kyle Dicke and his predecessor, David McMillan, both tout FELPS’ fiscal restraint, McMillan said following the meeting, “This business is weather-driven,” meaning that years with temperature extremes result in higher purchased-power costs.
For instance, Dicke said in years like 2011, in which daytime temperatures reached 100 or greater 70 times, FELPS paid more to purchase wholesale electricity from San Antonio-based CPS Energy. In cool, wet years like 1998 -- when less electricity is used to power air conditioning -- FELPS spent so little in purchased power that budget projections were revised downward.
According to Dicke, only four new items have been added to 2013’s operating budget:
•FELPS now will observe the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday by closing. For the coming year, it is anticipated this will add $15,000 to the utility’s non-productive labor costs.
•An AirLife insurance benefit, which covers all 77 employees, their spouses, and their children in the event that this helicopter must be used to transport them to a trauma center. FELPS has allocated a total of $1,800 per year -- approximately $23.37 per person -- for this benefit.
•Safety footwear for all field employees. FELPS has allocated $9,000, which will give approximately 45 employees up to $200 per year for the purchase of steel-toed work boots that comply with American National Standards Institute regulations.
•Testing meters for the top 15 percent of customers. FELPS will allocate $21,000 per year in 2013 and 2014, to hire a third-party vendor to test for accurate billing.
The utility’s board also approved a $6,030,917 capital construction budget for 2013. As of August, it was projected that the year would end with just $4,512,500 being spent on maintenance and improvements system- wide, as several anticipated projects were not completed during 2012.
While FELPS’ workers are spending an increasing amount of time meeting the needs of oil and natural gas well sites in southern Wilson and northern Karnes counties, Dicke said this has not hindered their normal, day-to-day duties.
“It’s not affecting the services to the rest of our retail customers,” McMillan said.
But the added activity within the Eagle Ford shale play has prompted FELPS to budget an additional 10 percent for overhead and underground devices. In 2012, FELPS allocated $1,275,448, but was on pace to spend $1.5 million, which is why $2,020,420 has been allotted for 2013.
Other anticipated capital expenditures include:
•$300,000 for a communications tower at the Eagle Creek substation on F.M. 775, upon which equipment for radio communications and felpsis.net will be installed.
•$100,000 for a heavy-duty stake-body truck with a lift gate, because the current truck lacks the carrying capacity to handle the increasing weight of equipment used.
•$75,000 for engineering fees related to a reconductor project between Dittmar Lumber and C.R. 320 on U.S. 181. FELPS will spend $400,000 on labor and materials for that project, which will be split between 2013 and 2014.
•$65,000 for a Super-visory Control and Data Acquisition system, which will allow FELPS to monitor its four substations from a central location. An additional $35,000 is being allocated for security at these substations.
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