Separating LP&L Control From City Hands - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/5/04

Separating LP&L Control From City Hands

The City of Lubbock was faced with problems when they found out city management misappropriated money between Lubbock Power and Light and The West Texas Municipal Power Agency. The agency Lubbock is in the power business with.

But after further investigation, a utility commission found that problems started way before that.

Ten years ago, LP&L had a cash balance of at least $34 million in its reserve fund. "It had $34 million in the bank in 1994 and that money is all gone. The rates have not gone down since that day. The $34 million was either taken from it, spent, not done properly and that's because who was in charge? No one was in charge," said J.Q. Warnick, retired Judge, also a member of the Electric Utility Governance Commission.

It found out that previous city councils were the ones dipping their hands into LP&L's funds when it didn't have any money. And over the years, Warnick says LP&L electric rates suffered.

"We are effectively putting the handcuffs on wayward city elected people wary ward city management who would turn to LP&L for cash to do pet projects in return for favors," said City Councilman Gary Boren.

And remember the money LP&L owed the city for giving it to the WTMPA? Officials agreed to write the remaining debt off the books.

On top of that, Warnick and the rest of the committee have suggested to the council that LP&L be created as an independent powerhouse all it's own. A brand new ordinance that's in the works will allow the city council to appoint a director and board members to run LP&L's day-to-day operations.

Boren says the committee's recommendation to the council will finally create accountability, direction, and protection for rate and tax payers of this city.

Before, two city managers and the director had control of LP&L. Also, the council is waiting to hear back from legal to possibly bring this to a vote in May so the ordinance is permanent. But because of the bond debt of $50 million, Boren says they're waiting on ways to amend the bond agreement without costing tax payers any money.

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