Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chamber pushes for accelerated Utilities study

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 5:11 PM

No surprises here.

The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC has issued a letter calling for Colorado Springs City Council to speed up a study about removing coal-fired Drake Power Plant from downtown.

The Chamber also wants the Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, to study selling off not just the electric utility, but all four utilities that are now owned by ratepayers. Utilities officials and City Council members have often boasted about having low rates because the utility is owned by ratepayers, not stockholders.

Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC
  • Quimby, at a news conference in August 2011.

The Sept. 10 letter from board chairman Doug Quimby says the Chamber urges "the Utilities Board to consider commencing a process to address larger issues, including whether our utilities should continue to be municipally owned, and, if the city does maintain ownership, whether the governance structure of CSU should be changed."

Then Quimby calls for a process of exploration to be "independent, perceived to be independent, transparent and credible," and likens the prospective process to the lease of Memorial Health System, to which the business community was embarrassingly late. In fact, business representatives completely ignored a 10-month Citizens Commission process and study before elbowing their way in to a city task force that wrote a request for proposal and eventually chose University of Colorado Health to lease Memorial.

That transaction closes Oct. 1 and could bring $259 million to the city in an up-front lump sum, but there might be some major bumps on that path, as you can read tomorrow in the Indy.

The letter gives the Council marching orders on what to include in the Drake study:

• Costs and timelines for possible decommissioning
• Replacement power options
• Impact on customer rates
• Overall economic impact of decommissioning the plant, including remediation of the site and "the accompanying economic development opportunities of the site and surrounding area"

But Quimby and his followers then graciously allow Council to take up what to do about its contractual obligation to Neumann Systems Group, which is installing pollution control technology on Drake to meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

"The Chamber and EDC takes no position on that issue, as deciding how to proceed is the responsibility of the Utilities Board," the letter states.

The Chamber's letter was written on the same day that Councilors Angela Dougan, Brandy Williams, Tim Leigh and Val Snider, demanded a special Utilities Board meeting be called for Sept. 26 to revisit the decision to put off such a study of Drake until 2013. Here's the full story about that, which we posted last night at 6:03 p.m.

In closing, Quimby writes: "The wise development and use of our community's utility infrastructure is something this organization takes very seriously, as we know its impact on the economic well-being of our region."

Here's the whole letter:
Chamber_EDC_letter.pdf

It's not surprising the Chamber would jump into this issue, considering developer/godfather Steve Schuck already has arranged a private meeting of all the influence-brokers for next Thursday, Sept. 20, to talk about how much the city could get from selling its electric utility. That story, also broken by the Indy, can be found here.

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