On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, the City of Milford Public Works Committee discussed unauthorized use of electricity in city parks after reports from Milford Police Department that individuals were running personal items using unmetered electric outlets in the park. At a recent City Council meeting, Chief of Police Keith Hudson reported that they had discovered the use of refrigerators, laptops and other devices in the parks. This led to all outlets in city parks being turned off until a solution could be found. According to Jeff Portmann, acting City Manager, the electric usage could be considered theft of service. Electric Superintendent, Rick Carmean, reported that electric was necessary in the parks for downtown festivals, such as the Bug and Bud Festival and Riverwalk Freedom Festival as well as the Farmer’s Market which runs every Saturday in the summer.
“We provided the Farmer’s Market with receptacles that have a switch that they are able to turn on and off when they need to be used,” Mr. Carmean said. “They came to us and said they needed a few more, so we added others that are on a time clock. Those are on from 9 AM until 1 PM on Saturday for use by the Farmer’s Market. In Memorial Park, we put in more switches for sporting events that are held there. In Bicentennial Park, we are making them more accessible to the Parks and Recreation Department to make it easier on them. They have been placed on timers so the staff can turn them on and off. This seems to have resolved the problem with unauthorized use. All other receptacles have been turned off and can be turned on as needed.”
Councilman Chris Mergner asked if the merchants at the Farmer’s Market were paying for the electric use. Mayor Bryan Shupe explained that the merchants pay a fee of around $10 or $15 for a table each week, but that the money goes to Downtown Milford Inc. and not to the city for electric usage. Councilman Jamie Burk asked if there was a way to know how much electric was used by the event.
“We tracked one section for the Farmer’s Market,” Mr. Carmean explained. “For the entire time the market was open, they used about seven amps.” According to Mr. Carmean, this amounted to approximately $0.50 of electricity each Saturday. According to Mr. Carmean, one individual discovered to be using the electricity without permission had used 14 amps of power in a short time.
Committee and council members reported that they had received a letter from a downtown merchant who did not approve of free electric being provided to the Farmer’s Market as those selling at the market were often business people. Councilman Burk said that he had a conversation with the business person, expressing his belief that the use of electricity was small. According to Councilman Burk, the conversation then evolved into a different matter entirely, which he thought had nothing to do with usage of electricity.
“I believe the Farmer’s Market is a community event that brings visitors to our downtown area,” Mayor Shupe said. “We turn the electric on for these types of events because those who provide the service sometimes need to plug in electric appliances in order to provide their service. We are not talking about a large sum of money and these events bring a lot of foot traffic to downtown, supporting our downtown businesses.” Mr. Carmean said that as long is at was regular electric service, there was no issue with events like the Farmer’s Market. However, if groups using the electric downtown caused problems, such as throwing breakers, the costs could be significant with overtime for employees who had to report to fix the problem.
Mr. Portmann suggested that the city add a section to their rental and usage agreements addressing electric usage that would include costs should a problem occur. Councilman Chris Mergner said that he would not be opposed to requiring a deposit from groups who would need use of electricity in city parks to protect the city against costs that could be incurred should the group cause an electrical problem. Mr. Portmann also suggested adding a city ordinance related to theft of services for unauthorized use should the situation arise again.