Tiahrt requests forum, questions motives

Filed under: Print,Utilities | Tags:,

The new CEO for Neumann Systems Group is calling out City Councilor Tim Leigh.

Todd Tiahrt, who oversees the company founded by Dave Neumann, wants to meet in a public forum with Leigh to set the record straight.

Leigh has been the most vocal opponent of NeuStream, a wet coal scrubber now being installed at Martin Drake Power Plant. And Tiahrt’s challenge is just the latest in a series of salvos between Leigh, Mayor Steve Bach and the company that says its coal scrubber will reduce emissions, while saving money and water.

Leigh says no way: “I’m not interested. I’m not an expert. I am only interested in and will continue to work toward the lowest-cost, most-reliable service for Colorado Springs’ ratepayers. I have no truck with Neumann; I just want to make sure ratepayers are getting the best possible deal.”

Leigh says any facts that NSG wants to present should be presented at a City Council or Utilities Board meeting.

“Show up with third-party verification that it works and that it will scale up,” he said. “You can’t debate facts. This is just an assault on my integrity and political posturing to defeat my re-election.”

Tiahrt says he doesn’t really understand why NSG has become a “political whipping boy” for city leaders.

“I can’t figure it out,” Tiahrt said. “We’ve gotten buy-in from the Colorado Department of Public Health. We’ve gotten certification from the Electric Power Research Institute; they looked over our shoulder and gave us an A+. There must be some sort of financial gain I’m not seeing here.”

Tiahrt says he’s tired of falsehoods and misconceptions, and wants a public forum to discuss the charges.

“This is interfering with our business,” he said. “But it’s also interfering with CSU and rates. Any suggestion he has will raise rates. There’s clearly an ulterior motive here that’s being discussed outside the public view. We want to bring this back into the public view.”

Leigh is saying other traditional scrubbers would be less expensive to install. But Tiahrt begs to differ.

“For every argument, we have an answer,” Tiahrt said. “But they aren’t listening. We have a mayor who promised 6,000 jobs, and instead, we’ve gone backward. Why try to run us out of town?

“We have the potential to create hundreds of new jobs.”

Tiahrt, who served two terms in Congress representing Kansas before starting a technology consulting group, says he tried to meet with Bach.

“I wanted to meet in his office,” he says. “But someone else called me on his behalf, and wanted to meet at 6:30 a.m. at a private residence. That’s a little too secretive for me. I declined. I believe in sunshine and transparency.”

Dave Neumann, still president of NSG’s board, said the mayor was creating a toxic business environment in which his company could not survive. He said the company recently laid off Rob Fredell, vice president of marketing, and “about 10” other people due to the uncertainty.

Bach has denied that Tiahrt contacted him, and said that the company should work solely with City Council, which has legal authority over CSU.

“Neither his (Neumann’s) firm, his new CEO or he has attempted to make an appointment with me,” Bach said in an email. “I would be glad to meet with them, but do not see the relevance given that Mr. Neumann’s company is a vendor for CSU, which is controlled by City Council acting as the Utility Board … Mr. Neumann’s suggestion that I am somehow impeding his company’s success is also false.”