BERLIN – While instructing staff to seek a long-term power
agreement, expected to reduce ratepayers’ electric bills, the Berlin Mayor and
Council faced a large bill of their own for electric sale legal fees this week.
The council approved payment of $152,000 in fees from
utility sale law firm Thompson Coburn.
“This is only through February,” said town administrator
The bill for the remainder of the deferred legal fees,
incurred in March and the first half of April, has not arrived yet, she said.
Council member Dean Burrell asked if the firm had been
notified to stop working on the case.
“It stopped as of the minute we sent the letter,” Mayor
Tom Cardinale said.
The town had already paid $34,000 to Thompson Coburn, but
the majority of the fees were to be deferred until settlement of the sale of
the electric utility.
The town council pulled the plug on both deals two weeks
ago after Old Dominion Electric Cooperative exercised their option to pull out
over environmental issues at the power plant property. The sale of the
distribution network to Choptank Electric Cooperative was halted because
elected officials felt that the townspeople had not approved that sale alone.
Overall, Berlin has paid $185,000 in legal fees, and an
estimated total of $300,000 in all fees, including appraisals, consultants, and
legal, through February. Bambary said she expects the final Thompson Coburn
legal fees bill to arrive at any time.
The cost of the abortive sale “would be expensed to the
electric budget unless the council wanted to take it out of the general fund,”
Council member Paula Lynch said that would be addressed
during the upcoming budget process.
“I think we’re going to need to see where we stand,” Lynch
With the sale of the electric system dead, the town is
looking for a long-term power agreement. The request for proposals was sent out
this week to 30 power vendors, after the town council authorized the action Monday
“The BUC (Berlin Utility Commission) will give you a
not-to-exceed number,” Lynch said.
Bambary and Finance Director Joe Davis will have some
latitude to accept a deal without consulting the council, Bambary said, because
of the time sensitive nature of price quotes. The town council will make the
decision if the price is above a certain amount.
Bambary said she could not predict possible rates of
savings for ratepayers.