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21 posts from December 2012


Wise Regional Health System plans Alliance area facility

Wise surgicalWise Regional Health System will break ground Friday on Parkway Surgical and Cardiovascular Hospital, a short-term inpatient facility it expects to open in about a year. The 29,000-square-foot facility is in the 3000 block of North Tarrant Parkway. Office Equity Solutions, a developer of medical and retail facilities, plans a 20,000-square-foot medical office building as part of the development. It expects to focus on "minimally invasive spine and cardiac and vascular services" and will include 12 inpatient beds for patients with longer recovery times. The property is across the road from North Hill Hospital's standalone emergency department, ER at Alliance, and near Texas Health Resources' just-opened Alliance Hospital at Interstate 35W and Golden Triangle Boulevard. Wise Regional Health has two hospitals in Decatur, a number of other medical facilities in Wise County and is affiliated with Baylor Health Care System.

-- Jim Fuquay



OSHA proposes penalties for Honeywell's Mansfield operation

The Occupational and Health Administration said Monday it cited Honeywell Electronic Chemicals in Mansfield with 10 serious safety and health violations. The agency proposes $53,000 in penalties. About 30 people work at the location on U.S. 287. OSHA does not cite an injury to any workers. Instead, it says the company did not follow OSHA's rules for "process safety management" for a chemical facility, something it says is being emphasized. The company has 15 business days to comply, request a conference with OSHA's Fort Worth area director Jack Rector, or contest the citations. A company representative did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. For the OSHA citation, Download Here.

-- Jim Fuquay

Electricity deregulation still needs work, group says

Although electricity prices in deregulated areas in Texas have declined since 2008 and choices have increased, Texans still pay prices above the national average and complaints have risen, says an updated report from the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, a group of cities and other purchasers that says it buys more than 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours of power annually for street lighting, office buildings, water plants and municipal needs. TCAP calculates that Texans have paid $10.4 billion more since 2002 than they would have had the state's electricity price matched the U.S. average. It says Texans paid on average 6.4 percent less than the U.S. average before deregulation, versus 8.5 percent after. TCAP also said complaints by electricity customers rose, peaking in 2003 and again in 2009, but have declined more recently.

Texans have paid electricity rates below the U.S. average in 2011 and so far in 2012 as natural gas prices have plummeted, the report shows. But that has only trimmed Texans' overpayment by about $1 billion compared to a similar study the group published in early 2011. Electricity prices in deregulated Texas markets rose above the U.S. average from 2003 to 2010, with the spread peaking in 2006. TCAP also questions the benefits of the state's wind power, the largest in the nation, because of the cost of constructing transmission lines to bring the power to urban areas and also its impact on reliability.

The report is available here.

-- Jim Fuquay

ERCOT says 2013 summer reserve margin slightly lower than target

The state's biggest electricity grid said today that its forecast for the peak air conditioning season next summer should see total resources that are sufficient to meet demand but just shy of the organization's reserve margin -- the excess of estimated capacity over anticipated demand. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which serves about 85 percent of the state's demand, expects peak demand of nearly 68,000 megawatts, with demand-reduction programs lowering that to 65,952 megawatts. Generation and other resources are estimated at 75,950 megawatts. That produces a reserve margin of 10,000 megawatts, or 13.2 percent, compared to ERCOT's preferred margin of 13.75 percent. ERCOT said it used an updated economic outlook to estimate demand.

Looking ahead to summer 2014, ERCOT said its reserve margin could fall to 10.9 percent, but noted that three gas-fired generation facilities are scheduled to go into operation sometime in the third quarter of that year. They are not included in calculating the 2014 reserve margin, but if they were, they would raise the reserve margin to 13.6 percent that year.

-- Jim Fuquay

Reckitt Benckiser to lay off 98 in Fort Worth

Reckitt Benckiser, a British-based maker of household cleaning and consumer health products, as well as foods, plans to lay off 98 in Fort Worth when it closes a local facility next year, the company said in a filing with the state. According to its website, the company's numerous brands include Lysol, Finish, Clearasil and French's foods. A company representative was not immediately available for comment. In 2008, the company leased 130,000 square feet at 14801 Sovereign Road in the Centreport Business Park south of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Its filing with the Texas Workforce Commission says about 80 workers will be laid off effective Feb. 5, 2013, and the remainder will be let go when the facility closes in the second half of the year. The notice says the company is "providing enhanced severance and bonus packages that are inclusive of wages and bonus that will be no less than 6 months wages," as well as other outplacement services.

-- Jim Fuquay


Ambit Energy making refunds of power surcharge

Customers of Ambit Energy are reporting that they are getting full refunds of the "Power Cost Recovery Factor" the retail electric provider added to October bills to cover what it said were higher costs attributable to actions by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. (Click here to see the Star-Telegram's report.) There's also a correction to the company's previous statement justifying the charge, saying the PUC did not "impose" a wholesale price cap increase, but only approved  one. It also notes that the previous price cap wasn't exceeded. The notice concludes: "The PUC has determined that the PCRF was not permissible per commission rules. As a result, Ambit is providing a refund for the PCRF charges."

Shortly after the October bills went out, some customers filed complaints about the charge to the PUC in Austin. The agency's staff and company officials have  met since then, and the company's response "is consistent with what staff and Ambit have been working toward the past few weeks," said  PUC spokesman Terry Hadley. A company official wasn't immediately available for comment.

-- Jim Fuquay


Fort Worth-Arlington enjoys lower gasoline prices

Rejoice,  motorists who gas up in the Tarrant area. You're paying the lowest prices in Texas, auto group AAA said in its latest weekly gas price report. AAA said gas stations in the Fort Worth-Arlington area reported an average $3.08 a gallon for regular unleaded. That compared to a state average of $3.14 and a national average of $3.38. Prices were down from a week ago by 2 to 3 cents a gallon, but AAA noted that it still cost about $44 to fill a 14-gallon tank in Texas. “We encourage motorists to continue every effort to maximize fuel efficiency including keeping their cars and trucks maintained according to vehicle manufacturer recommendations,” said AAA's Texas/New Mexico representative, Doug Shupe.

-- Jim Fuquay 


Simon Property acquires Paragon Outlets shopping center in Grand Prairie

Simon Property Group, which owns both North East Mall and Grapevine Mills in Tarrant County, has  acquired the new Paragon Outlets Grand Prairie shopping center.

The 417,000-square-foot center, located at Interstate 20 and Texas 360, is home to more than 100 leading designer and name-brand outlet stores including Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Bloomingdale's The Outlet Store and Coach. It opened in August.

In a press release, Simon said it has assumed management responsibility for the center, which will be renamed Grand Prairie Premium Outlets.

Simon also acquired a Paragon outlet mall in Livermore, Calif.

-- Steve Kaskovich


Cash America refunding millions to Ohio customers

Fort Worth-based Cash America Inc., the nation's largest operator of pawn shops, said some court documents related to loan collections in Ohio were not properly prepared, and as a result it will voluntarily make refunds to about 14,000 customers in the state. It put the cost of the reimbursements and related expenses at about $13.4 million.

"While the company believes the filed documents accurately depict the existence and amount of the debts owned to the company under consumer lending contracts, the preparation and filing of these documents did not always comply with certain court rules," the company said in a prepared release. It said it will file to dismiss existing cases, terminate collection activities stemming from court judgments, seek to vacate judgments and notify credit bureaus of the changes. "While Cash America is taking these actions proactively, it could still be subject to other liabilities, and additional changes in its business practices may also be required.

-- Jim Fuquay

Cinemark buyout of Rave Theaters could cause 54 layoffs

Dallas-based Rave Cinemas, which last month negotiated a $240 million sale of 32 of its 35 movie houses to Cinemark USA Inc. of Plano, confirmed Tuesday that it has announced the possible termination of 54 employees from its Dallas theater-support group because of the takeover.

A WARN notice was issued to the Texas Workforce Commission on Nov. 28, giving a Jan. 31 layoff date.

Rave spokesman Doug Willmarth said Cinemark has the option to hire the workers under the deal, which requires federal anti-trust approval. If there is no objection from authorities, the sale is expected to close in late January, he said.

As for rebranding the cinemas, Willmarth referred queries to Cinemark, whose spokeswoman did not immediately return a call.

—Barry Shlachter


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