Members of the Hastings Utility Board received a preliminary look at the Hastings Utilities 2019-20 budget.

HU Manager Kevin Johnson highlighted planned capital projects across all departments during the utility board’s regular meeting Thursday.

Utility board members will see the complete utility budget during their Aug. 9 meeting.

That proposed utility budget will be presented during the Aug. 12 Hastings City Council meeting. Council members will discuss both city and utility budgets during their Aug. 19 work session at the Hastings Public Library.

The council will act on those budgets during the Sept. 9 meeting. The city needs to submit its budgets to the state by Sept. 20.

Within the electrical department, a new dry ash system, which would allow marketing of dry fly ash to provide revenue instead of cost and will reduce ash pond liner costs, is budgeted for $425,000.

A new shaker for the coal dumper building is budgeted for $140,000. The coal shaker uses mechanical vibrations to assist in unloading frozen coal in rail cars and eliminates the need to use sledgehammers.

“This past winter was cold, which is good for natural gas sales, but not so much for getting coal out of a rail car,” Johnson said. “We heard about a few instances where guys had to get the job done and jumped in with sledgehammers and started beating coal out. I think this $140,000 is way over needed.”

Mike Hernandez, HU director of electric production and wastewater facilities, said implementing the coal shaker fits with HU’s emphasis on safety.

“$140,000 is a drop in the bucket if you hurt somebody out there,” he said.

Also planned is $650,000 for a new three-phase overhead electric line on J Street, from Elm Avenue to Technical Boulevard and on Technical Boulevard from J Street to Coaltrain Road.

This will provide a two-way feed to Central Community College-Hastings, a backup to Breechblock Renewables’ proposed Project Flint west of the Whelan Energy Center and is needed for phasing for the U.S. Highway 6 widening.

“This is a three-pronged need for us this year.” Johnson said.

Breechblock is currently in a period of due diligence for Project Flint. The city has a nondisclosure agreement in effect with Breechblock while the company evaluates whether to pursue Project Flint in Hastings.

Mayor Corey Stutte said during the July 8 Hastings City Council meeting the project could be worth $200 million should Breechblock choose to go forward.

That due diligence period is scheduled through October. The city and utility fiscal years both begin Oct. 1.

“We wanted to highlight the fact that we are still planning for and budgeting for the development,” Johnson said about Project Flint.

Also for Project Flint, $726,000 is budgeted for a new three-phase feeder from the Seventh Street substation to Whelan Energy Center.

There is $420,000 budgeted continued voltage conversion for Second Street to Seventh Street and from Briggs Avenue to Bellevue Avenue.

There is $450,00 budgeted for underground electric construction at new industrial and residential projects. That is the same amount budgeted within the current fiscal year, although $460,000 is forecasted to be spent this year.

“Even though we spent a little more this year that’s a good spend because this is development, it’s good spend,” Johnson said.

Within the gas department, $150,000 has been budgeted for developments within the community.

“Which is more than we budgeted the last couple of years, certainly more than what we’ve spent the last couple of years, but we do anticipate more new developments,” Johnson said. “We’re kind of relying on what HEDC’s doing and we’re relying on what developers around town are doing.”

In the administrative department, $425,000 is budgeted for modifications to the North Denver Avenue business office for security and customer service.

This was budgeted in the current fiscal year as a $500,000 line item, but just $65,000 was spent for architectural designs.

Another $200,000 is budgeted for 2020-21 for finalization of construction and reconfiguration of parking for better flow.

Johnson said across all departments staff members have been diligent about expenses.

“Our revenues right now, our overall spend; I’ve been very impressed with our staff at holding the line and only spending what they need to,” he said.

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