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Electric Deal Could Free Millions for Capital Projects

How to fund infrastructure upgrades one topic at special town hall meeting.

Madison is developing an asset management plan that spells out the cost of each component of its infrastructure to help officials understand what will be needed in the decades ahead, and a deal on wholesale electricity for Madison's electric utility could free up millions of dollars for capital projects in future years, officials said Monday at a special town hall meeting on the capital budget process.

Mayor Bob Conley and Councilman Rob Catalanello gave an overview of how the capital budget process works, and, along with Robert Vogel, the borough engineer, and Ray Codey, the borough administrator, fielded questions and input from many of the approximately 30 residents who attended the 7 p.m. meeting in Hartley Dodge Memorial.

The town hall meeting was one in a series of informal discussions held to give residents an opportunity to learn more about how the borough operates and offer their ideas.

Meeting attendee Pat Rowe, vice president of the Board of Education, brought up that a few years into the future, Madison could potentially reap the benefits of locked in wholesale electric rates at historic lows that would leave it with millions of dollars in surplus. He estimated the rates could lead to $5 million to $7 million in surplus for some of those years, though officials said it likely would be less than that because other surcharges are increasing significantly.

They don't want to count on any surplus until it's actually there, but, if a larger surplus is realized, it would make sense to use some of it toward one-time capital expenses because it is not revenue they could count on year after year because of the volatility of the electric market.

Rowe said the surplus should at least be factored into the planning process over the next five or six years.

Officials credited Councilman Dr. Vincent Esposito with spearheading the effort, currently under way, to have the borough develop an asset management plan.

Vogel said it will be "nice to have a nice componentized look at each one of our assets" and it "will open our eyes to what we have."

He said the asset management plan will probably look daunting when pulled together because it will spotlight worst case scenarios.

It will show "How bad it could get, but doubtful it ever will get."

Madison Station October 02, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Invest the surplus in solar panels to generate our own electricity, which could be used to offset the surcharges in the summer peak demand. Better for the environment and good for our wallets.
Stephen McCann October 02, 2012 at 03:57 PM
This is exactly the kind of planning needed to reverse course and bring borrowing free and no tax raise liquidity back into our municipal budget. I commend the Governing Body for their actions and look forward to hearing frequent updates on the progress being made.
Tom Judd October 03, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I commend the Council for undertaking this initiative. Much better to be proactive than reactive. I note, however, that the implication of lower electric costs is that the Boro will keep the excess money. Remember, inflated electric rates are a hidden tax, flying under the radar of state-imposed caps. I hope they will give part of it back to us.

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