Posts tagged with Black Hills Energy

Hy-Vee to add Starbucks, sushi and other items as part of remodel project; KCC seeks comments on proposed natural gas rate increase

Granola, Starbucks, sushi, a big deli sandwich and perhaps a conversation with a dietician. Perhaps a rather long conversation with a dietician. All those items and more are slated to be part of a remodeling project now underway at the Hy-Vee on Sixth Street.

City officials have issued a nearly $70,000 building permit for the store at 4000 W. Sixth St., and store manager Andy Sutton tells me that the first changes customers will notice is a new Starbucks store. Hy-Vee has been featuring the Caribou Coffee brand, and it will remain the brand served from Hy-Vee's kitchen. But Sutton said Starbucks has been a popular addition at other Hy-Vee locations.

There is little doubt it will be popular in west Lawrence. I haven't yet been able to confirm that the city is undertaking a project that will allow for Starbucks coffee to come directly out of the faucets of west Lawrence homes, but surely planning for the project is underway. Unless I've lost count, this will be the third Starbucks between Wakarusa and Monterrey Way — one in Dillons, one standalone store and now one in Hy-Vee.

The Hy-Vee-based Starbucks is slated to be open by mid-July. The Starbucks, though, is just the beginning. By the end of August, several other improvements should be completed. They include:

— A doubling in size of the store's health market section. When all is said and done, Hy-Vee will have more than 300 bins for bulk product items like whole grains, beans, nuts, granola and other items.

"As consumers' lifestyles change, we need to update as well," Sutton said. "Health markets were in their infancy when this store was built, and now it is the product that customers really demand."

— A "resetting" of the store's center aisles to increase product variety, especially with ethnic and Asian foods.

— Ready to eat food offerings will grow with a new fresh, sushi bar and a new Italian and delicatessen case.

— A more visible and accessible office will be created for the store's dietician to encourage customers to stop by and have conversation with the full-time professional. Sutton said customers will be able to get shopping tips related to weight-loss strategies, gluten-free diets, options for diabetics and other such topics. The dietician office will be near the front of the store where the customer service photo area is located.

Those are the main changes on tap for this remodeling project, but shoppers should keep their eyes open for other changes in the next few years.

Sutton said that in the next three years, Hy-Vee plans to add the Market Grille or Market Cafe concept to many, if not all, of its stores. The concept means a portion of the store will turn into a more traditional restaurant, complete with waiters and waitresses. Before you freak out, the option to buy directly out of the cases or the salad bar, and seat yourself will remain, but Hy-Vee is finding some people like the full restaurant experience at their stores.

The Market Cafe concept, according to Hy-Vee's website, offers a menu of hamburgers and flatbreads and other such fare. The Market Grille, however, offers those items plus steaks, chops and other forms of higher dining. In fact, it looks like some of the Market Grilles come equipped with a bar and craft brews and such. It looks like the nearest Market Grille concept is located at 151st Street in Olathe.

Like I said, neither the cafe nor grille is in the plans for this remodel, but keep an eye open for that trend. West Lawrence residents, I'm sure, will have plenty of caffeine to keep both eyes open.

In other news and notes from around town:

• It won't be as much fun as buying 42 pounds of granola in bulk, but you may want to mark calendars for a meeting on July 10. The Kansas Corporation Commission will be in Lawrence to discuss a proposed rate increase for Black Hills Energy, the largest natural gas provider in the city.

Black Hills has filed a proposed rate increase that would increase the average monthly bills of residential consumers by 7.5 percent and for commercial customers by 9.9 percent. Much of the increase comes in the form of an increase in the monthly service charge, which shows up regardless of how much gas you use. For residents, it is proposed to increase to $21.70 per month, up from $16, according to information from the KCC. For commercial customers, it would rise to $36, up from $22.75.

Black Hills officials say the rate increase is needed to recover the significant amount of money they have invested to keep the system "safe, reliable and efficient." The company also notes that its wages, medical costs and supplier costs are on the rise.

The proposed rate increase, however, doesn't have anything to do with how much natural gas is selling for on the open market. Black Hills simply passes along the cost of the gas to customers. How Black Hills makes its money is by charging a fee for the delivery of the gas. The KCC, however, regulates the rates Black Hills can charge for that service.

Black Hills has a website that explains why it is asking for the increase, and also has a calculator to help you figure out how much your bill may increase. Black Hills' last rate increase was in 2007.

The July 10 meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the Dole Institute of Politics. Public comment will be accepted. The KCC will be accepting public comment on the proposed rate increase through Sept. 22. For more information on how to submit written comment, click here.

Reply 8 comments from Doyle Coons Suzanne Jacobsen Mike Edson Fred Mion Elizabeth Newman Dorothy Hoyt-Reed Parkay Jettacris Terrylee

New poles may be installed in Lawrence neighborhoods as part of Black Hills wireless meter-reading project

If you still get riled up about a new cell phone tower being erected in the county, you’re so stuck in the 1990s.

These days, the argument is just as likely to be about communication equipment that is erected right next to your house.

Perhaps some of you remember that a few residents of Old West Lawrence expressed concern about AT&T installing large boxes of communication equipment on city rights-of-way near people’s homes. The boxes were for AT&T’s U-Verse service, and the city was caught a bit off-guard by the trend. But city officials have since created a new agreement that covers placement of that equipment.

Well, the trend continues, and this time it is with the city’s largest natural gas company: Black Hills Energy. Black Hills Energy plans to begin an Advanced Metering Infrastructure project in the city. If you are a meter reader, that should make you cringe because meter readers, it appears, likely will have time to hang out with telegraph operators and pager salesmen.

What it means to everybody else is poles. There likely will be more poles springing up in the city. The poles will house an antenna like device, a communications box and a solar panel. Based on what I previously have heard from Black Hills, most natural gas meters in Lawrence send out a signal that contains your usage information.

Currently, a van full of equipment drives up and down the streets of Lawrence and captures the signal and the data. But with the new system, strategically placed antennas will capture the data and send it to a central billing location. That will eliminate the driving up and down the streets of Lawrence to read the meters.

Black Hills is proposing 29 antenna sites. Ten of the sites are on existing traffic signals. The remaining 19, however, will require the installation of a new pole. Click here to read a report that includes a full list of the sites.

As proposed most of the poles will be placed on city right-of-way, — a couple will be on property owned by Black Hills — meaning most of the poles will show up in places where you would expect to see a street light, for example.

Public Works Director Chuck Soules told me most of the poles will be about 30 feet tall. , The city and Black Hills have created some photo illustrations that indicate the poles will be as tall, or perhaps a bit taller, than a standard street light pole. Soules said Black Hills wants to start work on the project immediately.

City commissioners will get briefed on the project at their Tuesday evening meeting. It will be interesting to watch how the project unfolds. The technology has caught the interest of the city. The city reads thousands of water meters each month, and most of them are still read by people who walk up to the meter and record the data.

According to a city memo, the city has “discussed the opportunity to possibly share some of this technology/infrastructure with Black Hills.” There doesn’t appear to be an immediate change on the horizon, but according to the memo, Black Hill has indicated a willingness to cooperate when the city is ready to pursue the technology.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday.

A photo illustration of what a Black Hills meter reading pole may look like in a Lawrence neighborhood. Courtesy of: City of Lawrence.

A photo illustration of what a Black Hills meter reading pole may look like in a Lawrence neighborhood. Courtesy of: City of Lawrence. by Chad Lawhorn

Reply 3 comments from Fithawk Joes_donuts Betty Bartholomew