Louisville businesses react to LG&E, KU's possible sale

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by Adam Walser

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 2, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 2 at 7:19 PM

They're cooking with gas every day at Mark's Feed Store.

“There's always a burner on. The oven's always on,” said Manager Tammy Haury.

Natural gas and electricity fuel the Highlands restaurant's  economic growth but at a high cost each month.

“You're looking at anywherefrom a thousand, two thousand dollars, even more than that,” she said.

So when rumors spread that utility provider LG&E might be replaced by another multi-billion dollar corporation, Manager Tammy Haury became concerned.

“When you got somebody that's gonna come in and take over, you never know what's gonna happen. I think the first thing they're gonna look at is jacking the rates up on you.”

That's the last thing Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says his city needs.

So when the sale rumors surfaced, he began looking at the option of possible public ownership of the utility again.

The city first studied the possibility in 2004.

The mayor says the move would help fuel economic growth.

“Instead of a 12.5% return, which is what LG&E is given today by the public utilities commission, we could make it on one percent, 2% return which would give us the chance to keep our rates low,” Abramson said.

That would be of even greater importance to businesses like Norton Healthcare, which operates hospitals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Norton says utilities cost, budget wise, about $14 million for them.
Norton is one of LG&E ‘s top 20 customers.

“It is the biggest part of our budget. We try our best to keep energy costs down and usage down, If you go up a percent, you're talking $140,000 a year.”

Those concerns lead Norton, the mayor and Mark's Feed Store to hope that if the utility is indeed for sale, we all have the opportunity to become future owners.

Abramson hoped to dust off the boxes from the 2004 study and forward the information to bankers, lawyers, engineers and other experts who will be able to tell him if a public takeover of LG&E is feasible, that is if E.ON ever indicates the utility is for sale.

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