MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Maquoketa Municipal Electric Utility board members said unofficially this week that they want to see the city's power plant mothballed at the end of the year.

Three of the five members were at the meeting, and no official vote was taken, but the consensus was to shut it down but not demolish or sell it.

The board has been talking about the future of the plant for more than a year. WPPI of Wisconsin, which supplies power to the system, has been paying a subsidy to the Maquoketa utility to have the power plant ready to provide additional power during different times of the year, but not to Maquoketa.

The 13 engines at the power plant have rarely been used for city electricity in the past 20 years. There has been an occasional power outage in the city when the plant has operated for a few hours. Also, there are some federal regulations that will be needed to upgrade the engines by next year.

The WPPI subsidy will end Dec. 13.

Manager Mike Nickeson said there is no interest in someone buying the plant and little interest in buying the engines and moving them or getting funding from WPPI to continue.

If the existing plant were kept as backup generation, it would cost $265,000 a year in expenses, about the same cost as the WPPI subsidy. Nickeson said that would mean about a $6.50 per month increase for the 3,400 electric meters in Maquoketa.

If the power plant is mothballed, it will cost the utility $10,000 to $20,000 a year to keep it as an option.

"If we mothball them and we lose power, it doesn't mean they can get up and running right away," Nickeson said.

No one attended the meeting to speak for or against the proposal. A final decision has not been made.

"The way our grid is set up, we have multiple backups," board member Kelvin Sohl said. "There is a tremendous cost difference between mothballing or keeping them as standby generators."

I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.