Town seeks to borrow funds for hydro power

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Vidalia is asking the State Bond Commission for permission to borrow $4 million to pay for power it must buy from Louisiana Hydroelectric, according to Mayor Hyram Copeland.

The money would also help the town establish a larger reserve fund for times when the Mississippi River is low. The Bond Commission will probably consider the request in its May meeting.

Vidalia is supposed to receive royalties from the Sidney A. Murray Hydroelectric Station that are equal to 6 percent of the plant’s gross revenues from the sale of its power.

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But the Mississippi River, from which the hydro plant makes power, dropped to very low levels last year, causing the plant to produce almost no power.

And under the contract between the Louisiana Hydroelectric Partnership and the town, the partnership can defer paying royalties until the river gets high enough for the plant to once again make a profit.

So starting with the first quarter of 2000, the partnership began deferring those royalties. It now owes the town more than $2.4 million in royalties and interest.

River levels have risen greatly since Jan. 31, causing the plant to produce close to its 192-megawatt capacity. But the partnership must pay into its reserves and pay off loan notes before it begins to pay royalties to the town. Copeland said he expects the partnership to begin repaying royalties in November. More than three years ago, the town had saved $2.4 million in hydro royalties in a reserve fund to help pay for power it bought in low water times, according to Town Manager Kenneth Davis.

But without royalties to pay into that fund, the reserves have dwindled to nearly nothing.

&uot;We actually would like to build the reserve fund up to about $5 million,&uot; and the $4 million in loans the town is seeking would help do that, Copeland said.