Dover residents now know the value of their electric utility. The next question is: do we sell it or keep it?
For the first time since the city of Dover brought its electric utility online in 1921, residents now know how much the entire system is worth: approximately $200.6 million.
Members of Dover City Council's Utility Committee were given the news during its Monday night session.
That figure reflects the value of all assets assigned to the system, to include equipment, land, and contracts and agreements made with the city.
It also takes into account any depreciation due to the age of parts of the system and any inefficiencies due to outdated equipment or operating inefficiencies, said Gerald C. Hartman, vice president of GAI Consultants of Pittsburgh, Pa., who wrote the report.
Council commissioned the $117,500 study in September to get a handle on how much the system is worth.
Then, as during the April 8 meeting, committee chairman David Bonar emphasized that there are no plans to sell the utility.
"What we've done is for the first time in 90 years is to put an appraisal together of our entire electric utility," Bonar said. "We wanted something to tell us what the entire system is worth."
"It will be up to council, at some point, if they want to pursue a possible sale," he said.
Personally, Bonar added, he would be very reluctant to recommend the city sell the system, primarily because it guarantees a steady income. The electric utility pays for itself and also contributes approximately $8 million annually to the city's general fund.
That contribution could change should someone else take over.
"I'm not comfortable with not being able to guarantee that income should a future council decide they want to dip into potential profits we may make from the sale," Bonar said.
City Manager Scott Koenig also said the reason for the study was to gather information about the system itself, not because of any possible sale.
"The point was to give the city a level of confidence in the quality of our electrical system," he said.
Keonig acknowledged the Delaware Electric Cooperative had obliquely mentioned the possibility of either joining the city in running the utility or buying it outright. However, he again stressed there have been no discussions with anyone about selling the system and no offers made by anyone for buying it.
He echoed Bonar in saying the city would be handing over control of the system if it were sold, as well as possibly giving up the guaranteed income from the utility.
In the end, Bonar said council accepted the GAI report for what it is: a benchmark on the worth of the city's electric utility, something city council can use in making future decisions for the good of all city residents.
"It's up to us as council to utilize our electric utility and our city services as a tool to attract new residents and new business to the city," he said.
Copies of the GAI report are available at City Hall for public review.