Prairie State’s New CEO visits PPS meeting for first time

Paducah Power Systems is working to market its extra resources to lower power costs long term. While Paducah Power has frozen price hikes for its customers until July, the utility is having to pick up the slack because it’s not collecting enough to cover its power costs.

Tuesday the board heard from Prairie State’s new CEO for the first time. Don Gaston started in October. He talked about plans to make Prairie State more efficient.

“My pledge to you is that we are going to be very good stewards with your funds and your assets,” Gaston said.

Paducah Power Interim General Manager Mark Crisson said they have more energy resources than they need. He suggests selling more of the energy generated by the hydro power and the peaking plant.

“If we can find a way to somehow sell or dispose long term a portion of those. That will greatly improve our financial position on an ongoing or permanent basis,” Crisson said.

At the start of the year, PPS teamed up with a new portfolio manager – American Municipal Power or AMP. They’re working to develop a marketing and restructuring initiative.

“This is key I think to a long term structural solution to the situation here in Paducah,” Crisson said.

Carson said, getting Prairie State to operate at a higher capacity won’t solve all of the problems.

“If Prairie State simply operates at 85% or 90% instead of 60% or 70%, that we wouldn’t have any financial issues here at Paducah Power. That’s not the case,” Crisson said.

However, Prairie State’s new CEO Don Gaston said he knows there are problems, but his new team is committed to increasing operating capacity.

“We are on an upward curve on plant performance,” Gaston said.

Gaston said in 2014 plant performance was a lot better than in 2013. He said he expects performance to continue to improve in 2015 as well as operational costs. Gaston said they have a reserve set aside for the next two years that will address both workmanship and design flaws that could potentially cause problems in the future.

PPS is also searching for a new general manager. PPS Andrea Underwood said they interviewed four candidates last week. She said the board is weighing its options and has not made a decision yet.

Paducah Power is also working to get a surety bond, which Crisson said is like insurance that will help in eliminating their debt. That’s why board members went to New York last month to meet with companies to secure a surety bond. Crisson said they hope to have an answer sometime this week.

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