FAIRBANKS — All that remains are the signatures. Within the next two days, Interior Gas Utility’s general manager will fly to Anchorage and sign the final paperwork approving the roughly $60 million purchase of Pentex Natural Gas Company.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority currently owns Pentex and is providing IGU the loan to purchase the company. IGU’s board of directors voted 4-1 on Tuesday night to give IGU General Manager Jomo Stewart authority to sign the final paperwork.
In December, IGU and Pentex separately voted to proceed with final negotiations on the contract.
“I would say either tomorrow or the next day, we would officially own Pentex,” IGU Chairwoman Pamela Throop said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Board Member Patrice Lee was the lone “no” vote. After the vote, board members detailed their sentiments at the end of a multi-year negotiation.
Lee said she was dissatisfied with AIDEA’s cooperation. “Instead of helping us, it’s almost like every time we ask for something they said, ‘No,’” she said.
Board Member Steve Haagenson said, “We’ll look back on this day for many, many years to come and realize that we did a very significant, positive thing for Fairbanks.”
Throop took a middle ground. “I’m certainly not thrilled with everything that we have, but I think it does give us local control to the extent that we will be making decisions here,” she said.
She was referring to a clause in the financing agreement with AIDEA that requires AIDEA’s approval for any changes to timelines or capital expenditures more than $250,000.
IGU’s board of directors had recently expressed concern about their inability to make changes without AIDEA oversight. To reassure IGU, AIDEA President Dana Pruhs sent multiple letters to Throop reaffirming the process by which the two agencies will work through disagreements, namely “good faith discussions and the use of mediation,” as stated in a June 11 letter.
Stewart offered a different analogy. “We will all be required to sit in a sandbox until we come to agreement,” he said.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker also sent IGU a letter on June 11 signaling his commitment “to ensure maximum, local utility control over the capital projects.”
Complex and ongoing structural changes are slated for the multitude of organizations involved. Dan Britton, president of both Pentex and one of its subsidiaries, Fairbanks Natural Gas, will soon be taking the role of IGU’s general manager.
IGU briefly began a nationwide search for a new general manager, but a lack of board approval led the utility to postpone the search and give the job to Britton.
Throop explained that Britton has a two-year contract with AIDEA, and since IGU is purchasing that contract they will retain Britton.
Throop declined to provide Britton’s salary. Stewart later elaborated, stating via text message that Britton’s contract with AIDEA is “under stamp of confidentiality,” and will remain so at least until closing.
It also would be unwise to discharge Britton in the middle of the acquisition, according to Throop. “There’s so much going on, that it’s not a prudent time to even think about doing anything like that,” she said.
Contact staff writer Robin Wood at 459-7510. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcity.