July 2, 2008
Sale Complete, Aquila Looks to Future
By Mark Fagan, Journal-World, Lawrence, Kan.
Jul. 2--Now that Aquila's long-planned sale of utilities has been cleared by Missouri regulators, employees at the Lawrence headquarters for the company's gas operations in Kansas and Colorado now can look forward to the future.
No job changes. No service cuts. No major adjustments.
Just a new name on business cards, stationery, bills and trucks: Black Hills Corp.
"There are no changes in staff, and the offices will still remain as-is throughout our entire service territory," said Curt Floerchinger, an Aquila spokesman who works at the company's headquarters for Kansas at 110 E. Ninth St. "The same people who serve today will remain serving during the transition period and moving forward. ...
"A customer shouldn't notice much of a difference. The name on the bill will change, and the name on the trucks will change -- eventually -- but it will be the same people serving them."
The transition -- the sale is expected close July 14 -- has been in the works for months, as part of a three-way transaction that already had cleared the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, secured approval from shareholders of Aquila and Great Plains Energy Inc., and gained clearance from regulators in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Colorado.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Public Service Commission finally approved the Missouri portion of the deal: Great Plains' planned $1.7 billion purchase of Aquila's electric operations in Missouri. Great Plains is the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light.
Immediately before that sale commences, South Dakota-based Black Hills intends to close its $940 million cash purchase of Aquila's electric operations in Colorado, plus natural gas operations in Kansas, Colorado, Iowa and Nebraska.
The deal will bring a new name for operations in Lawrence, where 35 employees oversee a natural gas operation that has 116 employees statewide. Together, the workers manage, maintain and operate a system with 2,728 miles of pipe in Kansas, serving 107,000 customers in 54 communities, including Lawrence.
The Lawrence office also oversees operations in Colorado, where 63 employees provide gas service to 68,000 customers in 28 communities. The company's 3,027 miles of pipe in Colorado cover wide expanses in the eastern part of the state, including suburbs of Colorado Springs.
As approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission, Black Hills' $940 million deal includes spending $143 million for Aquila's gas assets in Kansas.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Journal-World, Lawrence, Kan.
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