November 22, 2014

Council discussion about electric utility long overdue

Despite protests to the contrary, there’s a little bit of an urination contest, “for distance and accuracy,” as Mayor Chris Morrow put it, between the city staff and the Gardner Electric Utility Board (EUB).
Morrow said during a city council work session that he didn’t want the discussion to be a contest between the council and EUB. It wasn’t, but the discussion is a contest between who should hold power – city staff or the EUB.
Members of the Gardner City Council debated the function of the utility board during a lengthy work session on Oct.7. Council members praised the efforts of the board of appointed officials while agreeing to strip the board of most of its power in the future.
The council was placed in a difficult position. Since 2008, the EUB has run an efficient electric utility maintaining existing rates while building impressive reserves, or rainy day funds.
Holding money that they may not need or appear to be using came back to haunt the board. When the city’s budget needed a bit of padding, city staff recommended essentially taking money from the utility to make up the difference. There is room for debate about how the transaction occurred – with limited discussion between the council, staff and EUB – and whether the transfer was warranted at all. City staff said the EUB overcharged the city for years, and part of the transfer of funds from the EUB to the city would simply be a rate refund.
The subsequent uproar caused council members to take a closer look at the ordinance that created the EUB. Time will tell whether the council’s coming decision will be a wise one.
We certainly can’t fault previous councils for creating the EUB. The intent of the board was to allow the utility to function more like a business by setting politics aside in decisions related to the utility like rate-setting. And for a time, it appeared to work.
We never agreed that the utility should be run like a business. It simply isn’t one. The goal of a business is to make money, and a city-owned asset shouldn’t be run that way. If that is determined to be the final or appropriate goal of the electric utility, we would suggest that the utility be sold to a business, and the proceeds used to do benefit the citizens. That may be downtown beautification and functionality – say, parking to make downtown more walkable – or taking ownership of U.S. 56 Highway and making it a city road. It could be building a new park or civic center. The utility is a great asset, but if it’s run like a business it’s purpose is to make money, which is what the EUB did. The city shouldn’t be in business.
Allowing unencumbered funds to sit idle doesn’t work very well with so many bureaucrats eyeing in the pot. Staff wants raises. The parks department wants new trails, and the police want new law enforcement tools.
We don’t have a position on how the electric utility should function, but it was obviously time to have the discussion.

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Whether it is the EUB or the Gardner City Council and their bureaucrats, none of them talk about the huge debt that the citizens have to service and how that huge debt came about. Citizens have bankrolled the thieves coming here by providing benefit districts/sewer plants/roads, etc., etc. for their needs with the agreement that the thieves would pay their taxes and their yearly assessments to pay the bonds with respect to their particular benefit district. Well, some of these thieves don’t pay their taxes nor their assessments so who do you think pays for those bonds and who do you think pays for the needs of the community? And then you have some of these thieves after they have got their benefit districts which puts the citizens at risk, request and get their fraudulent “farm” appraisal on their properties and reducing their tax liability to almost nilch nor paying their assessments resulting in them pissing on the hand that feeds them – that is my opinion and the cherry on the top of the cake is when your own government is encouraging and allowing this type of financial rape. Do you ever hear your city government talking about the city’s/citizens’ debt and how much it costs the citizens each year to service that debt or about the lowlifes who don’t pay their assessments/taxes and what that is costing you? No, you don’t – your shell game city government shuffles that money around so fast and so often, you never know where you stand and that is exactly the way they like it. They are constantly asking what is the payment on this debt we are considering rather than why would we want to increase our debt for those who don’t want to pay their taxes nor their assessments and putting the citizens at financial risk- these yahoos aren’t protecting their citizens, they are using and abusing them in my opinion. On top of that they continue to chase after the blackmailing thieves who say right up front: We won’t come or stay unless we get the deal we want. Do you, the average citizen, think you are ever going to be treated fairly when you are being sold down the river about every day of the week, year after year? As long as you enable and support rubber stampers and the bureaucrats wheeling and dealing for you, you will continue to have an expensive government entity plus numerous other adverse affects.

    EUB has been doing well and I have asked time and time again, why don’t you reduce the electric rates for the citizens? Oh, no, they too have been taking care of the big boys in several different ways and the citizens’ concerns about high utility costs is their problem, not the EUB’s problem.

    Moral corruption, which is rampant in our society, is the proximate cause of messes like this and much, much more and it has been going on for years in my opinion. Then you have the lovely power struggles between entities that truly deserve each other and the citizens continue to be the losers because they are not doing their jobs and making poor, poor choices in the voting booth.

    Citizens are all over Gilhaus and his contract and actions as they well should be, however, the same thing is happening with the city manager if you would look at her contract and how the rubber stampers brought that about too. Your city council and school board truly need oversight along with their bureaucrats – only the people can bring about that needed oversight and that calls for CONSTANT attention and is not an easy job.

  2. I’m interested to see what the City of Gardner is going to do when they get free access to the EUB Emergency Reserve Funds. New Road? Raises for the Big 3?

  3. Judith, I know you don’t really care, but I would like to point out for the past 3+ years Gardner Energy budgeted so that any big project was funded with cash. We didn’t go into debt to fund the project we budgeted accordingly. GE rarely uses contractors to cut down on costs. In the past they were used often at a large expense. We often talked about trying to figure out how to pay off what debt we had in advance. Unfortunately the city lumped all the debt together to get a lower rate. You may hate everything but GE has done an excellent job of doing what they can to cut down on costs and save money for all of us.

  4. Judith Rogers says:

    Gardner Energy did not reduce electric rates when they could have but they sure wanted the citizens to pay for transfer fees for the thieves – those big boys should be paying their own transfer fees and they can well afford to do so just like I pay my FULL TAXES but again, the thieves don’t want to pay ANY taxes and they get the slimy politicians/bureaucrats make that possible time and time again. Cronyism government is alive and well and eats the citizens’ lunches day after day and you, Beasley, are very much involved in cronyism government including the accompanying lies, propaganda and rhetoric – that is my opinion.

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