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Loup Power District takes over Leigh

December 20, 2018

After decades of providing Leigh residents with wholesale priced electricity, village board members decided it was time to completely pass on that responsibility to Loup Power District.

“Operations just became overwhelming,” village board member Wayne Schroeder said. “We just eliminated the middleman, which is us.”

Leigh, a village in Colfax County with a population of approximately 405 people, recently transitioned from being the company’s wholesale to retail customer like Columbus, Platte Center, Lindsay, Humphrey and Creston. As a result, residents will be working directly with the company when it comes to rates and maintenance.

“It’s a great thing for us and the village and we are really looking forward to that partnership into the future,” said Loup Power President and CEO Neal Suess, noting it provides the company the opportunity to further expand its service area.

The establishment is headquartered in Columbus at 2404 15th St.

Schroeder said the arrangement was a long time coming, noting members spent the last couple of years deliberating the idea with company officials. He said there were many factors that played into the decision, from limited maintenance staff to high costs.

When a wind storm struck the village several years ago, Schroeder said it left a hefty $100,000 worth of damage to its electrical systems. The cost, he said, took a toll on the village’s overall budget decreasing profitability.

Schroeder said the system is also aging and is not functioning to its best abilities bringing forth maintenance and insurance expenses. Because of limited maintenance staff, Schroeder said board members had to outsource workers from the company.

As a result, the operation grew into a responsibility board members could no longer handle.

“They were contacting us on a fairly regular basis to help do maintenance on their facilities inside the village,” Suess said.

Despite the shift in authority, Suess assures Leigh customers that the decision will not affect their rates. Suess said the only major difference is that they will receive their electric bills from the district instead of from the Village of Leigh. Any maintenance and damage control moving forward will be directly handled by the company, as well.

Suess said he foresees the company working on service and facility upgrades within the village.

“We believe they need some updating,” he said.

The company is in the process of updating its retail meters throughout its service areas, which will allow staff to gather information directly from the Columbus office instead of having to travel to different sites. District staff will be able to identify any abnormalities from one location.

Suess said the new system will help staff respond to emergencies quickly and they will able to pinpoint the exact location of outages.

“So we will be able to do everything right here (in Columbus) versus having to send somebody out,” he said.

Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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