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Chambersburg Council discusses a powerful future

November 28, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council is floating the possibility of generating all of its own electricity in the future.

While further reviewing drafts of its 2007 budget on Monday, the council highlighted several unknowns about the future, including the possibility of generating its own electricity.

Council President William McLaughlin urged the council and borough staff to consider the option, which would save the borough $5.7 million a year in a transmission charge from regional organization PJM Interconnection.

That charge is passed on to power customers and is the subject of a series of hearings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The borough lost a recent battle over the matter and is gearing up for another hearing Dec. 20, which could then end up in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

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"This is a big deal for our customers," Borough Manager Eric W. Oyer said.

The borough's current power supply contract with Detroit Edison Energy Trading expires Dec. 31, 2007.

"Wholesale power costs have gone up significantly since our last contract," Oyer said, noting that any supplier would use the same, expensive power grid.

"We may, at some point, be better off removing ourselves from the entire power grid," McLaughlin said.

The borough, which already has limited generation capabilities, has the option under Pennsylvania law of partnering with other boroughs to produce power, Oyer said. McLaughlin said the borough is the only municipality in the state still generating some of its own power.

The council would need to consider the cost of buying power versus generating its own and paying down the debt that would be incurred to do so.

The borough in late 2003 opened the $19 million, 23-megawatt dual-fuel Orchard Park Electric Generating Station.

The borough's baseload, the amount below which demand rarely falls, is about 25 megawatts.

The council has given itself the option of raising property taxes by up to 3 mills in 2007 to lessen the gap between revenues and expenditures in next year's proposed $10.46 million spending plan.

Preliminary drafts of the 2007 budget, which is scheduled for passage Dec. 18, include hiring additional borough police officers.

As a 3-mill tax hike was being approved for advertisement, Mayor John A. Redding Jr. commented to Councilman Robert A. Wareham Sr. beside him: "That's what 3 mills are for ..."

"... three police officers," Wareham finished.

The new tax rate would be 20 mills. On a property with a market value of $100,000, each mill would add about $10 to the owner's tax bill, Oyer has said.

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