The Tribune distributed questionnaires to candidates in local races on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. Their responses are listed as received.
Name: Geri McCaleb
Education: Bachelor’s Degree Grand Valley State University, Majoring in Earth Science, minor in History.
I served on Grand Haven City Council for 8 years and served as Grand Haven Mayor for 8 years. In that time I had the opportunity to work with the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power and understand their operations and challenges. In my last two years as Mayor, 2017-2019, we worked together on the retirement of the Sims plant and what the alternatives were for the energy needs of Grand Haven into the future. The retirement of Sims called into question the fact that the City’s downtown snowmelt system was dependent on waste heat from Sims and the BLP employees who ran and supported the system; with Sims gone another solution to powering the snow melt system needed to be determined. We worked together to find a solution that would benefit both entities. Unfortunately that plan was abandoned. My degree in Earth Science also makes me familiar with the environmental issues facing Harbor Island and possible solutions we will face on that complicated piece of property.
Should Grand Haven have its own power generation?
I believe it is best to be self-sufficient. The Grid is dependable and well able to meet our energy needs but what is the Grid other than a network of power generation systems linked together to produce energy for whoever is on the system. In my estimation it is better to be part of the producers rather than just being a consumer. As a producer you are making a contribution to the whole, you are able to smooth out the price peaks and valleys of the electricity you consume by adding to the pool of power. In case of an emergency, if you have the capability of production you are more able to help yourself through that emergency. So yes, being a producer is an advantage, the source of that production would have to prove itself cost effective.
How should renewables figure into our future plans?
Renewables are part of the energy system and the GHBLP has invested in renewable energy in the past, present, and into the future. As of today, renewables continue to be developed and perfected and as that happens more and more of our energy needs can come from renewables. At this time natural gas and coal are still a vital part of our energy needs. They are dependable and affordable and are vital for our business economy as well as heating and cooling and powering our homes.
Industry in particular needs a dependable, uninterrupted source of affordable energy. Sensitive equipment, sensitive time lines, and deadlines depend on a constant flow of energy. This is vital to our economy and employment. Renewables are part of that picture but not yet a major part as you can see if you check statistics on where our energy comes from.
I am all about renewables, but they have to work, not just be wishful thinking and made affordable with heavy governmental subsidies.
How should the BLP use the property on Harbor Island?
The BLP maintains a substation and other infrastructure on Harbor Island so it will maintain a presence there. The BLP is in the process of closing the ash ponds. Beyond that it will be a board and city decision as to what will happen on Harbor Island. With the history of the Island as the City dump, a number of monitoring wells are being placed there to determine the amount and movement of the pollutants that are present. The information that will come from this study will help decide what the island can be used for in the future.
The previous plan included a solar garden and a battery park, whether any of this happens remains to be seen in light of cost effectiveness and infrastructure required.
At this point much will be determined by the environmental assessment underway.
If it’s to be a park, parks are fun, but parks don’t just happen; they cost money, to build and to maintain.
What would be your strategy for rebuilding trust with the community?
I would ask if there has been a problem with service or reliability, or is it based on the difference of opinion on a road forward, or is it based on misunderstanding and misinformation. The workings of an electric utility are a complicated specialized business and that is why you try to find the best people you can to run that business. Having worked with the BLP management, I believe we have the best people and they deserve your trust. As laymen it is difficult to understand the complexities, the legalities, and the processes that must be followed for the utility to run successfully. Our Grand Haven BLP has recently received a Diamond level award for excellence in service from the American Public Power Association. We should all be proud.
The best solution to misunderstandings is facts and an open mind to accept the facts. I would very much like to be part of the team that makes that happen.
Should the BLP be issuing bonds to pay for their projects? If so, why? If not, how should they be paid for.
First let me address the question. The BLP doesn’t issue bonds, they have to go before the Grand Haven City Council, and the projects are not “their projects”. These are projects proposed by the utility, and approved by the BLP Board, which is elected by the voters of the City of Grand Haven. The projects are for the good of the community and to fulfill their obligation to the transmission system. In this way they fulfill their responsibility to the ratepayers to run an efficient utility.
Depending on the size of the project I believe they should bond because oftentimes projects are so expensive they would not be done in a timely manner if it was all on a pay as you go basis. If you are always putting on band-aid fixes instead of really addressing the problem you often spend more money than if you borrowed the money to do a project right. If everybody waited till they had the money to buy a house instead of getting a mortgage, most people would be renting all of their lives. Borrowing money is expensive but sometimes it is necessary.