MDU wins bid to serve new Menards distribution center

Sep 18, 2014

Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The Public Service Commission has chosen Montana Dakota Utilities to serve a new Menards distribution center – planned for rural Burleigh County.

But the PSC vote wasn’t unanimous.

Menards is planning a distribution center near McKenzie. It would employ 240 people. The company originally approached MDU to provide electric service. But Bismarck-based Capital Electric objected.

The PSC voted 2 to 1 to select MDU. Commission chairman Brian Kalk voted ‘no.” He says even though both utilities serve the area, it will cost MDU more to extend service from an existing substation than it would Capital Electric.

"It was pretty clear to me that this is co-op territory," said Kalk. "Co-ops serve rural areas, industrial-owned serve cities. There's extra costs MDU would have to incur. And it doesn't make sense to go to the investor-owned."

But Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says for her, it came down to a matter of orderly economic development.

"MDU has been in this area since 1928," said Fedorchak. "This is a natural extension of their service."

MDU serves the city of McKenzie.

Fedorchak says Menards wanted MDU to provide the service – because the company could save $62,000 a year in its power bills.

Capital Electric has an option to appeal the decision to the district court. Kalk says he hopes Capital and MDU can reach some kind of agreement without having to take that step.

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