Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Springs Utilities: Not for sale

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Steve Snodgrass

Remember when Mayor Steve Bach was feeling his power and sent a letter to City Council urging a study of selling or leasing the city's electric utility?

Well, 11 months and a lot of brain damage later, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board today killed a study that could have cost ratepayers $500,000, an action we predicted in a blog post yesterday.

The unanimous vote came after a fairly lengthy presentation by Utilities Policy Advisory Committee member Terri Carver, who outlined what the study would cover; including a call to hire a consultant to act as project manager to help hire yet another consultant that would place a value on Utilities' power generation, distribution and transmission assets.

Nothing doing, said Board member Don Knight, one of six newly elected Council members who were attending their first meeting as part of the Utilities Board.

"It was very obvious in my district citizens didn't want to sell Utilities," said Knight, who defeated incumbent and frequent Utilities critic Tim Leigh in the April 2 election.

To which Carver responded, "This was expected, and we are fine" with it, a comment that drew laughter throughout the room.

Board member Jan Martin said the previous board started the study process with UPAC last year when the board "felt a lot of pressure" from Bach to explore a sale. We wrote about this here.

"There was a feeling a study could put the thing to bed," Board member Merv Bennett said.

Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, when asked about budgeting for the study, noted that $500,000 had been earmarked this year. But due to an expected $17 million drop in revenue, in part due to lower water sales due to the drought and associated watering restrictions, Forte said being able to scratch the study's cost would be "very, very helpful for us to maintain financial stability."

Chairman Keith King then said if there's no intention by the board to entertain the idea of a sale, "there's no point to the study."

A separate study of decommissioning the coal-burning Drake Power Plant downtown continues, however.

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