Red Lake Electric Co-op's rates have already gone up, Otter Tail to follow suit.

    A discussion that began several weeks ago about getting a better handle on the expense ledger at Crookston Sports Center was spurred by a report from city Finance Director Angel Hoeffner that electricity bills at the three-year-old facility had spiked over the past year or so.

    Although more detailed digging into the budget has since then steered some of the specific attention away from only electricity bills, off and on during the talks some have wondered if the situation would be better if Otter Tail Power was providing electrical service to the sports center instead of Red Lake Electric Cooperative.

    It's really not possible, Mayor Dave Genereux said previously, since the facility is located in RLEC territory and the co-op isn't about to give it up. But, even so, Park Board members were told this week, maybe what the city is paying for electricity at the CSC isn't so out of line after all. Or, more specifically, City Administrator Tony Chladek said, the cooperative's rates may have gone up recently, but Otter Tail's rates are poised to rise in the coming years, and may end up being higher than RLEC's.

    Chladek and Parks & Recreation Director/CSC Manager Scott Riopelle met with RLEC representatives last week. Riopelle said he left the meeting feeling better about the entire situation. For instance, he said the RLEC representatives reported that the former Civic and Sports arenas used approximately 850,000 kilowatts, while the CSC uses 2.1 million kilowatts.

    "That sounds like a huge difference, but the old facility was open six months a year, and the new facility is open much longer, is twice as big with three times as much equipment," Riopelle said. "I think we're sitting pretty good and doing quite well with the new facility by comparison. They felt like we're not out of line at this point."

    To mutterings from board members that the RLEC representatives may have been mixing a little sales pitch into their report or maybe telling Riopelle and Chladek what they wanted to hear,  Riopelle said he felt like he was being given solid information. "Sure, they're going to put some of that stuff in there, but I felt they were pretty straightforward with us," he said.

    RLEC will send a couple engineers to the CSC next week to conduct a more detailed "energy audit" to try to identify potential energy efficiencies, Chladek added.

    RLEC had to raise their rates  because of certain types of energy the cooperative had to purchase, Riopelle said, adding that, according to Otter Tail's website, the electric utility that services the city hasn't raised theirs yet, but that rates could go up 5 percent a year for up to a decade. "We've already reached that peak with Red Lake, so that's a good sign," Riopelle said.

    "Red Lake said they were about 20 percent over Otter Tail now, but that Otter Tail will catch up and probably pass them," Chladek added.

    No matter what, board chair Larry Brekken said, electricity rates are rising. "Maybe some alternative energies won't look all bad at some point down the road," he said.

Meeting notes
1 After tabling a decision last month due to budget concerns, the board OK’ed this year’s matching grants, totaling $5K. The dog park will get $2,000 for shelters for dogs, Walsh Park near the Villa will get $500 for some benches, and Polk County Public Health will get $1,260 for additions to the Castle Park natural play space.

2 The CSC will soon be home to a golf simulator that will be placed in the Community Room, and an ATM from Rochus Amusements.

3 Fisher native Kirby Newhouse will run Club Kid this summer. “She’s amazing,” Parks and Recreation Supervisor Scott Butt said.