Thursday, June 30, 2016

Springs Utilities board votes for status quo

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 at 4:37 PM

click to enlarge City Councilor and Utilities Board member Merv Bennett, left, helps unveil a sign at a Springs Utilities-created wetland south of the city, with then-water officer Gary Bostrom, in 2014. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • City Councilor and Utilities Board member Merv Bennett, left, helps unveil a sign at a Springs Utilities-created wetland south of the city, with then-water officer Gary Bostrom, in 2014.
The Colorado Springs Utilities Board voted Wednesday to maintain the status quo of governance by hanging onto their jobs overseeing the billion-dollar enterprise.

The vote was 8-1, with City Council President Merv Bennett opposing the move. Bennett chairs Council, while Councilor Andy Pico chairs the Utilities Board.

Says Bennett in an interview: "I was disappointed on the vote. I've been really clear that we need to change the governance because of how much time it's taking. It's so technical. I spend 55 to 60 hours a week [on city business]. Utilities is so important to us that having a board whose total focus on that is important. City Council needs to focus on the city. My desire was to have an appointed board. But I will accept the decision of the group and move on. It's possible a group might decide to petition something onto the ballot, and that's OK."

That "group" is the Colorado Springs Forward nonprofit, formed a couple of years ago with the mission to direct policy and politics in local affairs.

CSF issued this statement after the 8-1 action:
Colorado Springs Forward continues to believe that the citizens of Colorado Springs will best be served by CSU being governed by an appointed board, containing board members with expertise and experience in this complex and capital intensive arena. At our next board meeting, led by our new Executive Director Amy Lathen, we will evaluate our options regarding this issue. We believe the Governance Review Process has been a positive undertaking in that it has elevated the importance of CSU governance in the minds of the public and given current board members, as well as our citizens, better insight into how they can improve their performance as board members of CSU. At a minimum, in future City Council elections, we will carefully evaluate candidates qualifications to serve on the Utilities board.
Utilities issued this release explaining the vote and what led up to it:
During today's meeting [June 29], the Utilities Board discussed and considered:
Results from a recent telephone town hall meeting and a quantitative survey fielded June 20-22
Authorities for an independent board
The merits of an appointed board
The merits of an elected board
At-large vs. district candidates for an elected board
The work on Utilities governance will continue to for the next several months. For the last year, the Board has been examining Governance Process, which is how the Board accomplishes its work and makes decisions.

The Board is completing a new model for governing Colorado Springs Utilities that includes the Utilities Board's primary duties and responsibilities, Board commitments and procedures, and the Board/CEO partnership.

During today's meeting, the Utilities Board committed to completing the remaining work to be done on the Governance Process model, including Board Instructions to the CEO, Annual Board Performance Evaluation and Board Monitored Results in order to govern Colorado Springs Utilities as efficiently and effectively as possible.

These refinements will be discussed during the already-scheduled July 27 Utilities Board Governance meeting.

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