San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 17th, 2010
PEC approves new capital improvements policies

STAFF REPORT

Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) directors voted this week to approve a capital improvement plan that forecasts to 2013.

The plan includes building and improving substations, construction of electric lines and upgrading of transformers. The board’s approval allows PEC to begin work on projects outlined in the plan, including four transmission, 25 substation, 69 electric distribution and 60 general plant projects in 2010 alone.

The plan projects a $111.3 million budget for this year’s projects, down from $141.1 million spent in 2008 and $133.9 million in 2009. PEC forecasts an even smaller capital improvement budget for 2013, set at $61.3 million. Projects required by demands from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for infrastructure improvements and redesigns are included in the plan.

“We’ve taken a hard look at the electric system and weeded out a lot of the projects that simply don’t need to be done, and what we have left is a very good plan for the expansion of the system,” PEC System Engineering Manager Robert Peterson said.

The board also voted to establish a committee to consider and make recommendations about compensation matters to the full board. The committee will be comprised of PEC Board President and District 6 Director Larry Landaker and the chairpersons of two other committees — District 7 Director Patrick Cox and District 1 Director and Board Vice President Cristi Clement. District 5 Director R.B. Felps initiated the drive to establish the committee at the board’s Feb. 22 meeting.

The related resolution passed by the board states the purpose of the committee “shall be to consider and make recommendations to the Board on any compensation policy or any compensation plan concerning the overall compensation philosophy and programs of the Cooperative.”

The resolution also directs the committee to “review and recommend to the Board appropriate compensation and benefits for Cooperative Directors and executives.” The resolution designates the committee as a special committee that will be dissolved once the board determines that the committee’s work is complete.

The board also revised its “authority and responsibilities” policy, which defines the relationship between the Board and management, to change approval procedures and establish a tracking system related to contract approvals. The revised policy lowers the contract values required for board approval from $5 million to $1 million. It also lowers the value of consulting contracts requiring board approval from $1 million to $150,000. The board must also approve all contracts lasting at least two years, as well as all capital improvement plan projects.

“What this does is build a view into the pipeline of contracting activity, as (it is) developing, and before award, so we can see the population of contracted-out effort before the fact, rather than seeing it after the fact,” Clement said. “Furthermore, we found the $5 million threshold was excessive to any source we could compare it to.”

Said Landaker, “This is not in any way designed to trim the authority or lack of confidence in the general manager. This is a refinement-based policy change.”

PEC staff also updated the board on plans to reduce uncollected debt from nonpaying current and former members. The cooperative recently contracted with a collection agency. PEC will begin requiring identification from new members beginning on March 22, and will take steps to improve address verification for final bills for members discontinuing service.

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