The sign in front of the Homer Electric Association building in Kenai, Alaska, as seen on April 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

The sign in front of the Homer Electric Association building in Kenai, Alaska, as seen on April 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Opinion: Vote ‘yes’ on May 2: Homer Electric is the right choice for Seward

Local businesses understand that HEA has made the business case for a merger

  • By Tim Dillion, Bree Dodson, Cathy LeCompte, Laura Schneider, Liz DeMoss, Tom Tougas, Tim Jagielski, Randy Wells, Jeff Hetrick
  • Tuesday, April 25, 2023 10:54pm
  • Opinion

We are united in our support for the merger of Homer Electric with Seward Electric and the creation a new stronger utility. As leaders working within our city’s business community, we urge voters to fill in the “yes” oval on your ballot on May 2.

Months of learning about the merger has revealed a fundamental truth: We need it to go through so our local businesses can survive and thrive in this new, technological age. Rejecting this merger will lead to higher long-terms costs, energy instability, and lost growth opportunities.

Claims that HEA’s rates will result in huge price increases are not true as applied to business and educational facilities, including the SeaLife Center, multiple seafood processing facilities, medical facilities, and marine businesses such as Catalyst Marine and JAG Industries. Comparing the bills provided by the Seward Electric Utility for these entities over the past 12 months to what these entities would have been charged under the existing tariff for Homer Electric demonstrates that all would have paid less for electricity during this same time period. The savings ranged anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars on an annual basis. Multiple business would have seen a savings between $55,000 and $63,000 less per year under Homer Electric. HEA has already made large investments in technology and infrastructure we can take advantage of to incorporate into our systems.

Not only that, any business, but especially ours, cannot plan for the future without some idea of what energy will cost. We know Seward Electric is staring down a massive, required investment in deferred maintenance, new infrastructure and costly cybersecurity systems that will ultimately cost us, the ratepayers. When considering new programs, facilities, or exhibits, we must estimate how much it will cost not only to build things, but also operate them. The threat of greatly increased future energy bills to pay for new infrastructure HEA already offers make it financially practical to approve the merger. Notably, SES is the only paper bill that many of us still receive. They are behind the times technologically, and they know it. HEA’s merger provides a solution we can all benefit from and support.

This merger will improve local service delivery. Just like other businesses, inconsistent energy is a real, pressing concern when it comes to running heavy equipment which need to work reliably without and power surges that could damage expensive investments. On the business side of things, we look forward to better customer service from the new utility and their specialized member relations and billing programs. And of course, security is always a huge priority for us, and HEA’s world-class security advancements should make our systems even more resistant to hackers and other cyber-attacks.

Seward’s visitor industry is strong and growing. Tourists, and locals, spend money in our restaurants, bars, and shops. To sustain that growth, we need to provide steady, reliable power to guests whether they arrive via cruise ship or stay in one of the spots in our RV Parks. Ideally, we would upgrade more of our RV sites to include power, but without long-term rate certainty, we can’t make these upgrades because we don’t know what it will cost in the long run. HEA has demonstrated a commitment to making decisions that prioritize a healthy economic future outlook for Seward businesses.

Seward’s harbor is home to many marine-based businesses that know stability is critical to maintaining and expanding this important economic engine. HEA’s leadership stability is important and we value working with a general manager and an executive team that has been rooted in their community for decades. As residents, we also appreciate HEA’s decision to dedicate a Board seat to Seward, meaning our local voice will always be included in the decision-making.

Local jobs are also a priority for our business community. At AVTEC, we appreciate HEA’s student support programs, like scholarships and apprenticeships. They understand that homegrown talent is always preferable to bringing in people from outside, and they commit the dollars to make sure residents have work opportunities locally. Good-paying local jobs also mean our friends and neighbors can support families here, because member cooperatives offer some of the highest wages on the Kenai Peninsula. The ideal situation is one where we train residents here, and they choose to stay and spend their career here, keeping local knowledge and expertise on the ground in our communities. Homer Electric shares these values as they demonstrated when they created 34 highly skilled local jobs by choosing to generate power here expanding economic opportunity and energy security.

Seward’s small businesses and the jobs they support rely on consistent, affordable power. The merger of HEA and SES is the best, most practical solution for ensuring our community is poised for growth and prosperity, now and for years to come. Please join us in voting YES on May 2.

Tim Dillon, executive director of Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District; Bree Dodson, owner of KOA Seward; Cathy LeCompte, director of AVTEC; Laura Schneider, owner of Exit Marine; Liz DeMoss, owner of Seward Alehouse; Tom Tougas, owner of Harbor 360 Hotel & Major Marine; Tim Jagielski, vice-president & co-founder of JAG Industrial & Marine Service; Randy Wells, owner of Tufted Puffin; Jeff Hetrick, director of Alutiiq Pride Marine Institute

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