Bach: Change Utilities’ governance

Filed under: Daily News,News | Tags:, ,

utilities 2Mayor Steve Bach’s official response to Xcel’s expressed interest in purchasing/leasing all or a part of Colorado Springs Utilities’ electrical generation facilities was measured and noncommittal. Here’s the official press release.

“Mayor Steve Bach indicated today in response to media inquiries that he will not be weighing in on whether Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) should consider the apparent interest of Xcel Energy, Vision Ridge Partners and perhaps other electric utility providers in a purchase/lease/joint venture regarding the CSU electric generation division. CSU is an enterprise wholly-owned by the City of Colorado Springs.

“The mayor said that since CSU is controlled by the Colorado Springs City Council (doubling as the Utility Board) pursuant to the current City Charter, the enterprise is the purview of the Council, not of the mayor.

“He stated that he respects Council’s unilateral authority over all matters regarding CSU, and believes it would be inappropriate for him to engage in a debate on the best long-term solution for the electrical generating division.

“Mayor Bach concluded with, “However, as mayor and as an ex-officio member of the Utility Board, I’m counting on Council to diligently protect the long-term best interests of the CSU ratepayers and City taxpayers by assuring electric service reliability and the lowest possible rates, while thoughtfully and responsibly leading the enterprise regarding safety, operating costs, debt load, guaranteed pensions liability, EPA mandates and other risks.”

That’s a reasonable position to take, but Bach has strong opinions about the future direction of Colorado Springs Utilities.

“I chose not to say it in the letter,” Bach told CSBJ this week, “because I didn’t want to diffuse focus from the Xcel et al potential opportunities. But I believe it is imperative that we change the CSU form of governance to a Utility Board of professionals and ratepayers.”

Bach is not alone in this belief, which has been frequently expressed by other community leaders. He has reasonably frequent contacts with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, formerly Denver’s mayor.

Any Colorado Springs mayor could be forgiven for envying his/her counterpart in Denver, given that official’s wide span of control and cordial relations with the 13 – member City Council. Xcel supplies power to Denver, while the mayor appoints the five-member board of Denver Water, the state’s largest water supplier.