The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 17, 1998 · Page 20
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 20

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 17, 1998
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Page 20
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4 SUNDAY MAY 17, 1998 THE SALlNA JOURNAL Money PERSONALS / B7 JOBS FOR GRADUATES / B7 Bs T ELECTRICITY Wind may up Kansas Western Resources plans to try using wind to generate electricity By The Associated Press TOPEKA — Western Resources is preparing to conduct an experimental sale of wind-generated power to its customers, the company's president and incoming chief executive officer told shareholders last week. "We're excited about what we can learn from the experimentation of wind power in our state," said David C. Wittig, who will take over as CEO on July 1. "Kansans have demonstrated great responsibility for their environment, and our customers have shown an interest in an option for 'green' power." The project will include two 750; kilowatt class wind turbines, capable of producing approximately 5.2 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, based on wind patterns, Wittig said. That is electricity to serve 550 households. Western Resources has a total ejecjric capacity of 5,312 Megawatts using a variety of fuels.; It serves 614,000 electric customers in Kansas. Interested customers will be able to ;buy wind-generated power on a voluntary basis following regulate% ; approval of the process, Wittig Said. Although pricing structures have not been developed, Wittig anticipated that wind power will cost more because of the capital costs to launch the project. However, he said, customers could elect to choose only a small amount of their electric supply coming from wind generation. Given technical success and customer support, Wittig said, Western Resources intends to expand the size of the wind farm to perhaps as large as 50 megawatts, which could serve more than 15,000 households. The specific site for the project and the subsequent wind farm will be chosen during the next few months, he said. Wittig replaces John E. Hayes Jr. as Western's CEO, but Hayes will remain in his current position as the chairman of the company's board. Wittig will keep his job as president. Hayes is expected to become the chairman of the board of Westar Energy when that company is created by the pending merger of Western Resources and Kansas City Power & Light. At that time, the company said, Wittig will take over as chairman of 'the Western Resources board ani Steven L. Kitchen, currently the chief financial officer, will become Western's president. Airfares from SaUna AT THE WATERCOOLER Destination Price Destination Price Denver 218 Atlanta Las-Vegas 280 Baltimore Los Angeles 335 Boston PjWfiix 347 Chicago San Francisco 240 Orlando Seattle 434 St. Louis At! (6res are the cheapest round-trip prices from Salina Municipal Airport / as of. the previous Thursday. Various restrictions apply. 218 272 302 215 232 299 Source: Action Travel Journal Graphic The customer is right That's what Intel Chairman Andy Grove learned when the company found that its new Pentium chip caused errors in some calculations. Grove said his biggest mistake was balking at consumer demands that all the chips be replaced. "We basically defied our consumer population," he said. Debt consolidation Loan consolidations seem like a good idea, but are nothing but trouble for some. "Consumers who consolidate loans without changing their spending habits are likely to dig themselves deeper in debt," said Janet Bechman, a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service specialist. Some should pay off bills one by one, she said. They look alike but aren't A TV set and a computer monitor are very different,; says Family PC magazine. A TV displays moving im-, ages, while a monitor has static and moving images,, and needs a sharper picture. A monitor updates its im» age 85 times a second, compared to 30 times a second-' for a TV. That means more expensive components. _,,.,,. ....__. Photos by KELLY PRESNELL/The Salina Journal Rick Naegele, Lucas, examines the head of his John Deere combine In anticipation of heading to Texas to start harvesting wheat for the season. Custom cutting Low prices could mean cattle, not custom crews, get to harvest wheat By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING The Salina Journal LUCAS — How important are the nation's amber waves of grain to Rick Naegele? The Lucas custom harvester earns about 98 percent of his family's income between wheat harvest in May and corn harvest in November. "We're extremely capital intensive," he said. "Everything we own is rolling stock that depreciates madly. So we have to turn a lot of cash and turn it quickly." Naegele thinks this year's income may depend as much on luck as on skill. He.is scheduled to leave Kansas at s the end of May with his four combines for Young County, Texas, about 40 miles southwest of Wichita Falls. L'ow wheat prices have already cost Naegele about 400 acres. But he knows it could be worse. A cutter who works beside Naegele in Texas lost 1,800 acres. His customers decided to let cattle graze their fields, instead of harvesting the acres for a cash wheat crop. The cutter is down to 600 acres. "We had a state meeting in Great Bend about 10 days ago and I talked to a couple of people who lost their — ^^^^^^^^^^^^MHM^^^Hm^B^^^^^BVM^^^HHMM^HiM Naegele watches as Ohio State University students work to fine-tune his equipment for harvest. entire work in Texas because they were grazed out," said Naegele, who serves as president of the Texas- based U.S. Custom Harvesters. "That wouldn't be the norm, but there are some people who are big cattle and livestock operators and they have grazed out their entire farms. This is going to have a significant impact on some people. I don't cut for very many big livestock producers." Price drop affects many Across the Great Plains, where most of the nation's wheat is produced, the effects of dismal cash prices for grain are beginning to be felt beyond the farm. In many places, a bushel of wheat has been less than $3. In mid-April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Kansas farmers received $2.94 per bushel, a drop of 16 cents from a month earlier and drop of $1.45 a bushel from 1997. Department officials say wheat prices are lower this year because of lagging exports and large stocks worldwide. , ' The issue is of such concern jn farm country that this month Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced steps being taken by the Clinton Administration to boost export sales. Included was use of the Export Enhancement Program to fight the-unfair trade practices of other nations. Meanwhile, grain producers looked for solutions at home. There have been numerous reports, especially in Texas and Oklahoma, of fields being used to fatten livestock. See WHEAT, Page B7 T STAYING AHEAD Congress might make it tougher to become bankrupt JANE BRYANT QUINN The Washington • . Post Legislation would make many filers pay debt instead of seeing it erased NEW YORK — Congress intends to tighten the screws on middle-class bankrupts. Legislation would stop people from discharging their debts if a judge believed they could pay at least some of their bills. Creditors say the change will lower the number of bankruptcies. A record 1.4 million households filed last year. The proposed law, however, will have another effect. Lenders will shovel even more credit at high-risk people, if they know it's harder for debtors to walk away. Delinquencies will go up, not down. Let's face it: There's shared blame for the high bankruptcy rate. On the debtor side, some folks are spendaholics (I leave out the "honest bankrupt," driven by unemployment, business failure or huge, uninsured medical bills). On the lender side, it's profitable to extend credit to marginal borrowers at high rates of interest. Creditors brandish a study, claiming that 25 percent of the bankrupts are abusing the system and could repay some of their credit-card debts. The study, underwritten by Visa and MasterCard, has come in for withering criticism and been discounted by many academics as well as the government's General Accounting Office. The actual portion of abusers is believed to be much lower, but no one knows how much. Bankruptcy filers tell the court what their income and assets are, but it's rare for anyone to check. How to deal with abuse in the system is a difficult question. Judges already have the right to refuse bankruptcy petitions that don't seem to be justified. In 1994, Congress created a National Bankruptcy Review Commission to recommend improvements in the bankruptcy law. By a 7-2 majority, the commission rejected the creditors' wish for additional roadblocks to bankruptcy. The commission would tighten the process in two ways: (1) Require random audits of filers, to see if they're telling the truth about their financial position. (2) Stop people from filing serial bankruptcy petitions, simply to hold off creditors for a few months more. Edith Jones, a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Houston and a member of the commission's minority, backs means-tested bankruptcy: a test of every applicant, to see if there's any more money he or she could pay. That's the road Congress is taking. The bill in the House, sponsored by Rep. George Gekas, R-Pa., would effectively create a budget for middle- and higher-income bankrupts. It would use the low spending allowances set by the IRS when setting up tax-payment plans. If that budget determined that you should be able to pay your secured debt (mortgage, car payment), plus priority payments (child support, back taxes), plus at least 20 percent of your unsecured debts, you would not be allowed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which eliminates most unsecured debt. Instead, you'd have to enter Chapter 13. There, you must pay some por- tion of your unsecured debt (mainly credit cards) over three to five years;'. The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens.' Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Durbin, D-D1, lets a judge " move you from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, based on assertions from your creditors that you could pay. This would catch some abusers who could pay out of future income. There's a big risk, however, that such a provision would be used too aggressively by creditors. Ironically, Congress isn't doing much about an abuse that's typically used by the "bankrupt" rich. A home of any value can be exempted from bankruptcy in five states (Texas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota). Some famous bankrupts have stashed their cash in mansions, leaving creditors high and dry.- SUGGESTIONS? CALL MARY JO PROCHAZKA, MONEY EDITOR, AT (785) 823-6363 OR 1-800-827-6363 OR E-MAIL AT simprocha2ka@saljournal.com

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