It is necessary and appropriate for individuals and businesses to continually evaluate their accomplishments and goals as they move into the future. As HEA members look toward the current election, this is especially important. HEA has an excellent track record; however, the future will be strewn with obstacles if we do not re-align our direction and focus on the true priorities of our members.
Almost 20 years ago, the Alaska Public Utilities Commission imposed a 30-year contract on HEA members to buy more power than was needed on a monthly basis from Chugach Electric. HEA members have been subsidizing CEA members and this must be corrected. We need a new contract with CEA that guarantees power into the future without unfairly harming HEA customers' pocketbooks.
For 15 years, we have been discussing the need for a southern intertie so that power from Bradley Lake can be moved off the Kenai Peninsula and sold to powerless residents in other areas of the state. This effort has come to an abrupt wall because of the current political climate in Juneau. To build a southern intertie today will cost HEA members outrageously, and we must re-direct our focus toward upgrades of the existing line and batteries for back-up power if we find ourselves isolated from the Beluga generating facilities.
HEA has been over-investing in state-of-the-art technology when we should be retraining and developing our existing employees. The anticipated expenditure of $3 million over the next three years should be realigned to train employees and ensure safety of users. Technology is moving too quickly to make such a huge investment today.
HEA must refocus on its mission of being the top electric power provider on the Kenai. Other non-electric services should take a distant second place among our priorities. The rejection by the Seward City Council of a very fair bid by the HEA board for annexation, the large losses by HEA in court against VECO and the recurring need for substantial loans by HEA are indicators that HEA should stay in the electric business which they do well and refrain from incursions into other business sectors which they do not do well.
And, finally, there is a very great need to focus on the huge concerns caused by the extensive loss of trees from bark beetle infestations. We have only begun to see the storm damage that will result if we do not advocate for extensive funding for removal and replanting of trees throughout the HEA system. The federal, state and borough governments must come to the help of all Kenai Peninsula residents and HEA must fiscally anticipate their role in mitigating storm damage.
The last two HEA elections have seen incumbents from the central peninsula defeated. I am grateful to be seeking re-election without opposition and I believe HEA consumers have been wise in adding new blood to the HEA board of directors.
I have called the Kenai Peninsula home since 1961. I am seeking my sixth term on the HEA board, and am president of Carey Stamps and Collectables and mayor of Soldotna.
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