In a 3-1 vote, the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power has approved a proposal to reduce the City’s debt toward snowmelt equipment on Harbor Island by 25%. The BLP will contribute $259,287.75 toward a $1,037,151 advance, which primarily went toward purchase of the industrial water heaters that provide heat to the snowmelt system. The contribution to the city will be recovered through a 5% increase to electric fixed monthly customer service charges for a period of 17 months beginning in February 2023 and ending in June 2024, an approximate 0.5% increase in retail sales revenues during this period.
“We see this as a helpful compromise that also creates an opportunity for the BLP to support economic development downtown,” said Gerry Witherell, who voted in favor of the proposal. “Snowmelt is critical to attracting more retail and hospitality activity downtown during the coldest months of the year.”
The BLP advanced the cost of the water heaters to the city to support the transition of the heat source for the snowmelt system when the J.B. Sims power plant was shut down and demolished. The plan was to couple the water heaters with the BLP’s proposed Combined Heat and Power Plant; however, that project was canceled. Unless paired with electrical generation, the BLP is not permitted to operate a heat utility, so the units needed to be transferred to City ownership.
Chairperson Westbrook voted against the proposal.
“The BLP currently contributes 5% of service revenue, about $1.8 million per year, to the City of Grand Haven already, which is among the highest contribution rates of any municipal utility in Michigan,” said Chairperson Westbrook. “I’m uncomfortable asking our ratepayers from Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, or the townships to fund City of Grand Haven activities beyond these contributions. However, I respect the opinions of my fellow board members and will support the decision going forward.”
A proposed City allocation for the remaining 75% goes to Grand Haven City Council next for their approval. City officials currently own and maintain the snowmelt system including the water heaters and collect revenue from downtown properties for operations.