Henderson Commission votes against selling HMP&L to Big Rivers


HENDERSON, Ky (WEHT) The Henderson City Commission has voted against selling HMP&L to Big Rivers.

Big Rivers announced plans to move from Henderson to Owensboro late last year. The move will cost Henderson almost 120 jobs and millions of dollars. Henderson Mayor Steve Austin says the entire ordeal between Big Rivers and HMP&L started after negotiations fell through on who was responsible for cleanup of the Station Two Power Plant in Sebree, Ky. 

In February, Big Rivers went to the city of Henderson in hopes of buying Henderson Municipal Power & Light for $90 million. Henderson officials entered into an agreement to assess the value of HMP&L and the impact on the city if the utility company was sold.

PFM, the company that performed an analysis of HMP&L, said upfront the city would receive a net gain of $1.5 million, but over time, according to analysis, there would be a net loss.

Big Rivers came back and said the report was based on assumptions, not facts. The company said if the city sells HMP&L to them, not only will the city get $90 million at closing, customer’s electric rates will be reduced by $3.6 million by 2035. 

“I’m glad it’s over, but I do feel like we thoroughly vetted it and looked at it from every angle,” said city commisioner, Austin Vowels.

“What is the value of our utility? What does the money mean to Henderson. All of these questions culminating in today’s vote, so it really is a weight lifted off our shoulders,” said Brad Staton.

City leaders said they weren’t so sure that customers’ electric rates would be reduced over time as proposed by Big Rivers.

“Our independent consultant explained that if you make this deal they’re gonna make their money back somehow, it’s gonna be through the ratepayers,” said Vowels.

“We have control over the rates over the city if we hold onto to HMPL, as our local municipally owned utility,” said Staton.

They also said that Big Rivers’ move to Owensboro was another key factor in their decision.

“To think about losing that company to Owensboro has always weighed really heavy on me, and the decision that we had to make today. It also stirred up some emotions in me to see a company use leverage those employees in a business deal. It didn’t sit well with me,” said Staton.

“The rough part of the transaction has always bee that Big Rivers has always been holding those jobs over our heads for us, and it’s not fun to be playing with people’s jobs like that,” said Vowels.

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