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NJUS Proposes Rate Hike, Cuts to Labor and Fluoridation in 2015 Budget Scramble

A proposed rate hike could hit NJUS customers at the meter to the tune of 2 cents per kilowatt. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

In its continuing efforts to pare down its budget in the wake ongoing financial issues, the Nome Joint Utility Board heard proposals to trim thousands of dollars from its 2015 budget during a work session Saturday.

Utility Manager John Handeland said he looked at the utility budget “line by line” when he brought forward suggestions adding up to tens of thousands of dollars in reductions across the board: from engineering and office expenses, to maintenance and materials, to reduced labor.

The labor cuts come from what Handeland called a rebuilding of the utility’s workforce.

“We’re having to rebuild our labor pool,” he said. “We’ve lost senior people, and we’re down to not enough, and we have to replace them. And so they’ll come down at a lower cost.” Handeland said he hopes to train new operators—and even an apprentice position—to grow the local qualified workforce and avoid expensive labor that would have to be brought to Nome.

Another area that could see cuts is the city’s water fluoridation program. The utility’s new proposal would not eliminate the addition of fluoride to Nome’s water all together, but Handeland proposed to stop fluoride additions on weekends to save on labor costs.

“I believe that this system can be shut off on Friday and started again on Monday” Handeland said, noting that constant monitoring would otherwise be necessary on weekends to ensure safe levels of fluoridation. “There would never not be fluoride in the water, it would simply come down in level over the weekend and then return by Monday afternoon.” Reducing fluoride addition to weekdays could save an estimated $10,000 to $13,000 in water operations, maintenance, and testing, according to a budget analysis provided at the work session.

Finally, the utility looked at reassessing its debt through a plan with the state Department of Environmental Conversation that would spread existing NJUS loans over 30 years, instead of the current 20-year window. That change could mean a savings of a quarter of a million dollars, but even so, Handeland said the utility as a whole could still face a $116,000 deficit, just as the board is aiming to build up a reserve fund to weather future emergencies. The only way to both build reserves and weather a deficit, Handeland proposed, would be through a rate hike.

“In order to fund that reserve, and the slight deficit currently projected, would require us to make a kilowatt change of, I’d have to verify that but, approximately two cents,” he said.

Despite falling oil prices around the world, cheaper fuel isn’t part of the utility’s plans for 2015. Any drop in price would be calculated when bulk fuel purchases come during the summer barge season, still many months away.

The utility board’s next meeting to hopefully solve the puzzle of its 2015 budget is now set for Thursday, Dec. 18.


  1. James Reeves on December 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Fluoridation is a WASTE of Tax Money

    All Civil Engineers and all water managers know that people drink only 1/2% of the water they use. The rest goes directly down the drain in toilets, showers, dishwashers, etc.

    So for each $1000 of fluoride added annually to drinking water, people drink $5 and $995 is wasted down the drain. Children would drink only $0.50 (fifty cents).

    That would be comparable to buying one gallon of milk, using six-and-one-half drops of it, and pouring the rest of the gallon in the sink.

    • Matthew F. Smith on December 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      James, from what I recall, the fluoride added by NJUS to Nome’s water is provided to the utility for free; the question before the utility is one of labor.

  2. nyscof on December 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Hundreds of communities have stopped or rejected fluoridation in recent years because science proves that ingesting fluoride is ineffective at reducing tooth decay, harmful to health, unethical and/or wa$teful. The Israel Health Minister recently banned fluoridation country-wide in Israel because of fluoride’s adverse health effects. See http://www.FluorideAction.Net/issues/health

    Fluoridation Opposition is Scientific, Respectable & Growing

    Over 4,600 professionals (including 366 dentists and 568 MD’s) urge that fluoridation be stopped because science shows fluoridation is ineffective and harmful. See statement: http://www.fluoridealert.org/researchers/professionals-statement/text/

    Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, Dr. Arvid Carlsson, says, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s really obsolete.”

    The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 91% of rural Alaskan Native adolescents have cavities whether their water is fluoridated or not. The CDC acknowledges that poor diets and lack of dental care are the probable culprits.

    Fluoride, once believed to reduce tooth decay through ingestion, is now shown to act predominantly on the surface of the teeth (CDC, 1999).

    This makes water fluoridation out-dated and ineffective as this CDC report proves

    After careful study, both the city councils in Juneau and Fairbanks, Alaska have stopped fluoridating their water supplies joining other Alaskan cities of Palmer, Kodiak, Ketchican and Seward which rejected or stopped fluoridation.

    Fluoride is in virtually all processed foods and high in ocean fish and tea.

    In the 1920’s, only 1% of the Alaskan Native (AN) population had cavities. In the 1940’s, air transportation brought in processed food, gradually changing the AN diet from fish and game to a diet high in cavity-causing carbohydrates. By 2005, 3/4 of AN kindergarteners state-wide had cavities.

    This CDC study reports that “soda pop consumption was associated with an approximately 30% increased risk for caries in permanent teeth for each soda pop consumed per day.” Many sodas contain fluoride from the water used in processing, according to the USDA’s Fluoride in Foods database.