Thursday, November 5, 2009
Northcentral director talks at Byhalia chamber luncheon
By SUE WATSON
The Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce reported a successful golf tourney in October with about 22 teams participating, according to executive director Sarah Sawyer. The event is a fund-raiser for the chamber.
The chamber met at Northcentral Mississippi Electric Power Association, with a catfish lunch cooked by sheriff Kenny Dickerson and his team. The next event will be held Thursday, November 19, at BardenStone at which time the chamber will announce its selection for Leader of the Year and Board Member of the Year.
Friday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. is the time and date for the Byhalia Christmas Tree Lighting. The program will be held this year at the square in front of the Byhalia clinic with Santa Claus and the works. Citizens Bank is providing hot chocolate and hot dogs free to the public.
Leadership Marshall is recruiting members for its fifth class to begin in January 2010. The class, an outgrowth and project of the Marshall County Strategic Plan, is one of the most prestigious annual projects in the county. It has been extended by the 2009 Leadership graduates by the formation of a Youth Leadership Program for all schools in the county and cities. The pilot project for youth has created as much excitement as the adult leadership program.
Byhalia Mayor Phil Malone announced that L.C.I. Construction’s “Starry Nights” holiday light show will be moved to the town of Byhalia this year to help launch a whole new Christmas program.
Sawyer said membership in the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce is near 300 and climbing with hopes to meet a goal of 500 members in two years.
New members were announced at the luncheon, including Jennie’s Flowers and Gifts in Holly Springs, which was selected for member recognition day last month.
Also, the chamber proudly displayed its new traveling trophy, made in Italy, that will be another way of recognizing new members. The Byhalia Post Office received the trophy in September, she said.
The chamber also is selling bricks for a memory walk with a goal to sell about 50 bricks to honor a business or member. The chamber also offers a plaque on the wall of honor inside the office whereby members can display their pride.
Guest speaker Kevin Doddridge, executive director of Northcentral Mississippi EPA, reviewed the prospectus for the association and upcoming changes in the power industry.
He said the association, in its 59th year, serves 28,000 customers spread in Tate, Lafayette, Marshall and DeSoto counties. Even with the economy in a slump, the association is adding new customers, but not at the rate as before the economy hit the skids. With the slowdown, Northcentral has turned its efforts to maintenance - trimming rights-of-way, inspecting poles and other preventive maintenance projects.
With Automated Metering Infrastructure technology becoming available, Northcentral is working to bring the technology to each meter. All residential meters are now being read twice daily from the office. The new “Smart Grid” capability will help manage outages, troubleshoot, and report time of day use in anticipation of the day when time of use rates are implemented. Power rates will vary by time of day, he said. That will shape the way that households plan their activities and spend their power money.
Doddridge said the June 12 tornadoes knocked out about 30 percent of the system with 75 poles down in the Byhalia and Olive Branch areas, but was thankful that the pole inspection program had saved the loss of possibly 300-400 poles.
A second storm in the Olive Branch area in July damaged the College Road and Highway 78 area. Storms cost the association over $400,000 last summer, but in retrospect, it could have been a lot worse, he said.
Although fuel cost adjustments have provided relief for customers of late, Doddridge predicts in several years that power distributors will move to some type of time-use rate priced on the time of day it is consumed.
To keep rates stable, rain for hydoelectric power generation in the Tennessee Valley, low coal prices and availability, increased nuclear production and an inactive federal involvement is needed, he said.
Monthly bills could rise as much as $125 if proposed cap and trade legislation is passed by Congress, he said. The cap and trade concept is a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by imposing caps on emissions with relief for industries going over the cap by trading or purchasing emission units from industries that use less than their allotment. Proponents would divert some of the revenue to social programs such as the National Health Care Plan, he said.
Doddridge said a plan to consolidate the Olive Branch and Byhalia operations, conceived 10 years ago, will result in the construction of a $13.4 million facility up the road a few miles and close to Olive Branch. He said the decision has not been popular in Marshall County. But Northcentral will work with Byhalia to look for a suitable occupant that will provide the needed jobs and tax revenues the city wants, he said. Close to half the employees currently live in Marshall County, he said.
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