OSAGE | Osage’s Municipal Utilities’ Manager Josh Byrnes recently presented the 2017 report on the community-owned utility to members of the Osage City Council.

Byrnes, who has managed OMU for the past two years said, “We are a unique utility, because we supply electricity, gas and telecommunication. There is not more than a dozen utilities in the state of Iowa that has all three types of utilities. It’s like running three businesses under one roof.”

Byrnes reported last year’s revenue for electricity was down a little, gas flat-lined and telecommunications was up slightly.

He said electric usage was down due to energy conservation.

“Some of our major users have gone to energy-efficient lighting and other conservation practices, which makes a big difference,” Byrnes said. “We are a different kind of business, because we challenge people to use less of our product.

“Sometimes little things happen in the manufacturing sector, and when they slow down, they use less electricity. Sometimes we are at the mercy of mother nature, like last summer’s mild weather, where there was less electricity and gas used.”

Wind-generated production was lower last year, because the city’s wind generator was struck by lightning, causing the generator to be off line for about two months.

“In late February or early March, we had thunder snow. We discovered a couple of electrical components were destroyed by lightning," Byrnes said. "Later, we found there was a crack in one of the blades and we had to call in a company to repair it. They found a second blade needed some repairs.”

Byrnes stated solar power had been a good addition to Osage’s electrical supply, as it supplies 1 percent of Osage’s electricity, while the wind generator provides 5 percent of Osage’s power. The OMU plant houses four generators which can come on line, if Dairy Land’s electrical supply is interrupted.

Last year’s major upgrade at OMU was in the telecommunication’s area, with a bandwidth fiber optics trunk line being brought to the community.

“This spring, we will be make some equipment upgrades and people will see the positive impact on their internet usage,” Byrnes said. “If people want to upgrade, we will be able to offer them a more robust package. Bandwidth opens up tons of opportunities for Osage and surrounding communities.”

Byrnes reported OMU’s 800-plus cable TV subscribers recently incurred a price increase.

“The four major networks charge us a retransmission fee, and those fees have gotten out of hand. One of those company’s rates increased 450 percent,” Byrnes said. “I don’t like to put rate increases on our customers, but we can’t lose money either.”

Byrnes said he exploring whether OMU could find alternative providers for its cable feed.

According to Byrnes, one major, future concern for OMU is the need for a second electrical feeder line and a new interconnect.

“If something happened to our primary feeder, the town would lose all its electricity. A second feeder line would be a backup for our community,” Byrnes said. “Even though OMU has four generators that can go online at any time, if the plant’s interconnect malfunctions, we couldn’t supply power for the community. We are in the early planning stages for this project, which will take one or two years to complete. It’s a high priority on my to-do list.”


Regional Editor

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