The pending acquisition of Topeka-based Westar Energy by Great Plains Energy, of Kansas City, Mo., would mean lower electric bills for residents of central and eastern Kansas and northwest Missouri. The Manhattan City Commission heard a briefing on the proposed acquisition at Tuesday night’s city commission work session. Chuck Caisley, vice president of marketing and public affairs, eased the minds of the Manhattan commission after speaking for roughly an hour about the proposed buyout.
Caisley said the increasing cost of infrastructure, coal, and cybersecurity have made the industry an increasingly difficult one to compete in. Great Plains would be purchasing Westar for roughly $5 billion, and assuming all of Westar’s debt as well. Caisley said his company would be able to introduce new ideas to Westar’s current customer base which stretches from Leavenworth county westward to Salina and Wichita. Caisley cited hi-tech thermostats, refrigerators, and electric car charging stations as just a few of the popular amenities Kansas City residents have enjoyed recently.
Great Plains and Westar are two similarly sized companies, according to Caisley. Together they serve roughly 1.5 million customers and employee a combined 6,000 people. Due to attrition by Westar and the possibility of relocation, only 75 jobs are expected to be eliminated by the transaction. The Westar headquarters in downtown Topeka would remain as a complimentary office to the Kansas City headquarters. As part of the deal, Great Plains would be reimbursing Westar stockholders $51 in cash, and $9 in stocks.
Caisley said if the acquisition is approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission later this month, Great Plains would become the third-leading company in the nation in terms of wattage produced by wind energy. The transaction must also be approved by the Federal Environmental Regulation Commission as well as the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Commissioners also heard an update on the Flint Hills aTa Bus from director Anne Smith alongside staff from the Flint Hills Metropolitan Planning Organization. Using urban transit grant money from the Federal Transit Authority, the Flint Hills aTa Bus and MPO will be rolling out an overhaul of Manhattan’s bus routes over the next few months. Stephanie Watts, Flint Hills MPO transportation director, said a new 30 day bus pass system and signage will hopefully make the bus system more accessible for area residents to use. Smith noted roughly 40% of all aTa bus riders use the system to get to and from work. The aTa bus will ask the city for roughly $75,000 for next fiscal year, which makes up less than 10% of its operating costs.
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Source: KMAN Local News
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