TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Light & Power trimmed another management position, a $98,500 post deleted as suggested by an efficiency study.
Tim Arends, the city-owned utility’s controller and interim executive director, terminated energy supply manager Karen Feahr on Monday. Feahr managed the utilities power purchase agreements. A draft report created by Hometown Connection, a consultant studying the utility’s management structure, recommended eliminating the position.
“It’s important for everybody to know the recommendations from the efficiency study are going to be implemented, and it’s in the best interest of the utility,” Arends said.
TCL&P will go back to relying on the Michigan Public Power Agency, a consortium of public utilities, to act as its power broker to negotiate power purchase agreements. The utility relied on the MPPA prior to Feahr’s hiring in December 2008.
“This has nothing to do with Karen Feahr’s performance; it’s a recommendation of how the utility should handle itself,” said Pat McGuire, utility board chairman. “We are too small to have a stand-alone position like that.”
Arends said he decided to eliminate the post now rather than wait until after the public release of the final report on March 25. Several people have already seen part or all of the draft report.
Feahr received no severance because she hadn’t worked for the city at least five years. She could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The report does not recommend any other position eliminations, Arends said.
Arends now has erased three positions created by his predecessor, Ed Rice. He eliminated the human resources post in December and assigned those duties to the city’s human resources department.
Rice also created a job for Jessica Wheaton as marketing and community relations coordinator. She took over her former boss Jim Cooper’s job after he retired in January. Arends said Wheaton will handle both positions in a restructured department.
The reductions reflect suspicions by some city commissioners that the utility was overstaffed, said Mayor Michael Estes, who served on TCL&P when Ed Rich hired Feahr.
The TCL&P board fired Rice in October. He started with the utility in April 2008, after retiring from Consumers Energy. He filed notice he intends to sue the utility.
Rice said Feahr’s ouster will create a void because someone has to manage annual energy purchase agreements. He hired Feahr because of her “vast experience in power acquisition” when she worked for Consumers Energy.
But Estes said he could never justify the position.
“We had an agreement as part of the association we belonged to that negotiates power purchases on our behalf,” Estes said. “It was the same old, same old, people that Ed (Rice) used to work with, a second career for someone in northern Michigan.”