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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Utility Board Questions Xcel Franchise Benefits

By Sandy Barnes
Berthoud Recorder

“I think we’re kind of walking around here in the dark,” said Utility Advisory Board member Eric Moe during a discussion of a possible franchise agreement between the Town and Xcel Energy at the Board’s Sept. 23 meeting.

Interim Town Administrator Gary Suiter asked why the issue had surfaced recently. “Revenue,” replied Trustee Dick Shepard, who serves as a liaison to the UAB. If the Town were to enter into an agreement with the power company that serves the majority of Berthoud residents, citizens would pay a 3 percent fee surcharge, which would generate additional funds for the Town.

“Why do we want or need it?” asked UAB member Mike Cook. “There may be a list of things we need to go through,” he remarked. Cook suggested that an Xcel representative come and talk to the UAB so members could gain perspective about the franchise agreement. “I think what’s more important is to establish a relationship with Xcel,” he said.

Cook and other members of the board also suggested making contact with the City of Boulder, which is in the process of renewing its franchise agreement with Xcel, and the Public Utilities Commission.

Developer Scott Sarbaugh, who is planning a major project using solar energy, also said it would be beneficial for Berthoud to pay attention to what Boulder is doing. “The City of Boulder wants to allow solar gardens for community solar use as well,” he stated in a letter addressed to the UAB. “Although it has been referenced that nothing excludes solar energy in the franchise agreement, it is important to clarify that the only solar allowed by Xcel is the solar rewards program currently in effect with Xcel Energy,” Sarbaugh added. “Along these lines, everyone in the Xcel service territory is eligible for the Xcel solar rewards program and eligible for rebates and tax credits whether there is a franchise agreement or not,” he stated.

“It’s what we could get for the Town from Xcel,” said Shepard. “We could be on the cutting edge with Boulder.”

Suiter suggested getting information about other franchise agreements from the Colorado Municipal League and online sources. “It’s always worthwhile to check with other cities,” he said. Suiter also recommended that the Town Administrator and attorney be involved in the process.

Water Quality Report Presented
At the beginning of the meeting, Suiter gave a report to the board on the preliminary findings of a consultant hired to examine the Town’s water system. Suiter said the “good news” is the consultant didn’t find any anything wrong with its operation. However, to address the odor and taste issue of the water supply created by the presence of algae in the Town reservoir, Suiter said the consultant advocated the use of ozone. However, adding ozone to the system would be very costly, he remarked. The recommended increase of carbon while treating the water has helped, Suiter noted.

UAB member Tom Gavin asked Suiter if there was also a problem with sediment in the Town’s water supply. Suiter replied there was not, and that he and other staff members did what they could to get the word out that there is no health issue regarding the water. In recent weeks, citizen complaints about the water have dropped from 30 to 40 a day to zero, Suiter added. He also advised the Town look at long term solutions such as accessing water directly from the Little Thompson Water District when there are algae in the reservoir.

“In my own mind, from the complaints I’ve heard, they add this together with the price of water,” said member Jerry Morlan. “A lot of people are really unhappy with the water rates.”

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