PADUCAH – “David Clark participates in the discussion during Tuesday’s Paducah Power System electric plant board meeting. Clark, who has been PPS general manager for 14 years, resigned in an executive session following the meeting.
David R. Clark resigned as general manager of Paducah Power System, a position he has held for 14 years, following Tuesday’s special meeting of the PPS electric plant board.
The resignation is effective immediately. Rick Windhorst, PPS director of engineering, has been named acting general manager.
‘It is with regret today that I have accepted Dave Clark’s resignation,’ said board Chairman Hardy Roberts as the board reconvened following a two-hour executive session. ‘It was his decision. I want to make that plain.’
Clark’s decision comes one week after long-time board chairman Ray McLennan resigned.
Paducah Power has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the poor performance of the Prairie State Energy Campus, its chief power supplier, the costs of its debt as a Prairie State owner/investor, and the impact of those costs on electric rates, believed to be the state’s highest.
Roberts said while he and the board accepted the resignation with regret, it was not unanticipated. ‘I’m sure that it is not a big surprise,’ he said.
‘The board understands for Paducah Power to move forward and make some critical decisions, there needed to be new leadership in the general manager,’ Mayor Gayle Kaler said.
Last week, Kaler and Paducah city commissioners approved a resolution demanding the electric plant board hire a search firm to assist in the selection of a successor for Clark, who had said he planned to retire next year. The resolution also demanded the board investigate the original contract when Paducah invested in Prairie State and its current financial obligations.
Kaler said she believes the board is ‘responding to the concerns of the community, not just the concerns of the city commission and the mayor.’
In the two-hour meeting that preceded Clark’s resignation, the board had already approved the hiring of a search firm to begin the process of finding his replacement. Board members Jeff Pedersen and Adolphus Jones had screened potential firms and recommended the hiring of a Colorado firm, Dowdy Recruiting, which the board approved.
The firm will be paid 25 percent of the beginning salary of the new general manager, plus expenses. The board will look into the possibility of engaging a search firm to hire an interim manager, Pedersen said.
Roberts cited four points to guide the board going forward as it seeks a solution to the high power rates:
‘We’ve got four rules up here I want to read to everybody,’ he said. ‘No.1 is we hear you, Paducah. No. 2 is we are on it. No. 3 we are committed to a review that is diligent, thorough and unbiased, and No. 4 is we are committed to finding a solution that is in the best interest of the ratepayer, both short term and long term.’
The board also decided to leave the Power Cost Adjustment ‘the variable added cost added to the base rate designed to offset the utility’s cost of buying wholesale power’ at its current rate of 2.15 cents per kilowatt hour. According to David Carroll, director of finance and administration, the PCA is a defined method built into the rate structure to reconcile the cost of power with the rate charged.
Based on the formula, the PCA would have been raised to 3.223 cents for the months of October through December. However, the board decided to leave the PCA at its present rate for 30 days and review it again for the last two months of the year. ‘Let’s make it plain … this is a gamble,’ Roberts said.
The board discussed a number of issues related to Prairie State, including forming a committee to oversee its review process, hiring an investigator to look into every aspect of the decision and options going forward, and having its attorney look into whether or not a bankruptcy proceeding would be a viable option.
The board opted to wait until Kaler appoints a successor to the seat vacated by McLennan’s resignation before deciding the makeup of its committee.
Kaler said she is currently accepting applications, but she will not make the choice lightly.
‘None of the individuals on the board were appointed by me except Mark Workman,’ she said.
‘I will be fully vetting this next candidate and not rush.’
Workman was appointed on Aug. 12.
As of Tuesday, Kaler said she has interviewed two candidates for the open seat and has four more interviews scheduled. Additional candidates would be welcome, she said.
Each applicant must submit a resume and answer a series of questions from the mayor.
Once Kaler announces her choice on Oct. 21 at the city commission meeting, that candidate’s responses to the questionnaire will be made public.
Workman said he is working with the mayor on forming a community group to advise the board and find a way for the community to play a role in moving forward on the issues facing Paducah Power. Roberts noted the board is addressing, or preparing to address, all the issues raised by the city commission, including finding ways to help customers who are struggling to pay their bills.
According to Andrea Underwood, director of community relations and marketing, efforts to assist customers have been underway for some time. Customers are receiving more one-on-one counseling, for instance, and are being encouraged to use available tools like a mobile phone app to monitor their usage.
‘The message we’re trying to get out is we really do care,’ Underwood said. ‘We want to work with them to figure out some way to resolve issues.’
Carroll said the staff is trying to help customers better understand how to manage their usage.
‘We can’t alleviate everyone’s pain, but we can work with them to get through it,’ Carroll said. ‘A lot of what we do is credit counseling in a lot of cases.'”
By David Zoeller and Carrie Dillard, Paducah Sun
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