Thursday, September 17, 2015

Utilities employees get a lift from ratepayers

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 10:16 AM

click to enlarge Ruxton Hydro Plant: Hard to get to. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Ruxton Hydro Plant: Hard to get to.

Seventy Colorado Springs Utilities employees boarded the Cog Railway on Tuesday to chug up to the Ruxton Hydroelectric Plant for a planning meeting, a $2,000 expense funded by ratepayers.

Aram Benyamin, general manager of energy supply hired in May after being ousted from the L.A. Department of Water and Power in early 2014, called the meeting, says Utilities spokesman Steve Berry.

"The only way to get there is the Cog Railway," Berry explains, adding that even when workers go to the plant for repairs or any other reason, they must board the railway and pay the fare.

"Believe it or not, there are a lot of [Utilities] employees that work in this building that have never been to Ruxton Hydro," Berry says.

The Ruxton plant, about 100 years old, is located half-way up Pikes Peak and produces 2.5 to 3 megawatts of power using water from Beaver Creek on the south slope that's delivered via St. John's tunnel, Berry says.

He also notes that Ruxton is accessible by car, Berry says, "but that it takes more than two hours, so vehicle transportation is not efficient or cost effective for 70 plus employees."

Benyamin paid for lunch and beverages from his own pocket, a $500 expense, Berry reports.

As previously reported by the Independent, Benyamin left the L.A. department after the election of Eric Garcetti as mayor, notable in part because Benyamin had supported Garcetti's challenger in 2013. Benyamin is paid $214,240 a year at Springs Utilities and reports to the chief energy officer, Eric Tharp.

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