Commission wants feasibility study for Pueblo utility
Electric Utility Commission
Source: Pueblo Chieftain
The newly formed Electric Utility Commission met for the first time Thursday afternoon and discussed hiring a consultant to perform a feasibility study that would examine if the city can create its own municipal electric utility, as well as explore any other options that would lower electric rates for Pueblo’s residents and businesses.
Panel member Chris Markuson, Pueblo County’s economic development director, said he’s researched other communities in situations similar to Pueblo’s, and their first step commonly is engaging in a feasibility study.
“Feasibility studies typically take a look at all types of customers and various options a city has in front of them, starting with do nothing as one piece, to making minor modifications, all the way up to major modifications,” Markuson said. “I believe there are some organizations around the country that provide those kinds of analyses to communities, and I think we’re at a point where my recommendation is, ‘Let’s consider that and see if we can get someone to do something like that.’ ”
The rest of the seven-member commission was agreeable, and City Attorney Dan Kogovsek recommended the panel hire a consultant and have the study completed by the end of the year.
Council President Chris Nicoll, co-chairman of the commission, suggested the panel look into who was hired by other cities in the state and country that were also exploring ways to reduce electric rates.
Due to the various legal components of what the commission is tasked with — determining if the city can exit its contract with Black Hills Energy 10 years ahead of schedule and create a municipal utility in its place — it was also recommended that members begin looking into hiring an attorney adept in energy issues who can help navigate the city through the process.
“I think you can find a consultant that starts a process of the feasibility study and then build that legal component as soon as possible,” Markuson said.
Councilman Larry Atencio, the other co-chairman of the commission, wanted to make it clear that all options are on the table; not just creating a municipal electric utility.
“Research and bring forward every option we can possibly put on the table, because if in cooperation with the electric utility we have we can do something and reduce the rates, we’ve got to look at it,” Atencio told his fellow panel members.
Council in September passed a resolution to study what would be involved in ending the franchise contract with Black Hills in August 2020. The resolution stated that Pueblo is notifying Black Hills it intends to take steps to create a municipal utility.
The EUC was formed on a recommendation from then-Council President Steve Nawrocki, who wanted to make sure the city researched its options as 2020 approaches.
The franchise agreement can only be canceled by city voters, They approved a 20-year agreement with Black Hills in 2010.