City Council tables MEAN contract for further discussion |

City Council tables MEAN contract for further discussion

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Representatives from the city’s electric power supplier will be invited back to the table to clarify some issues surrounding a proposed 30-year power supply contract that’s currently before Glenwood Springs City Council.

Council, at its Thursday meeting, tabled action on the matter after some new questions were raised about the long-term arrangement with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN) co-op.

A follow-up meeting with MEAN likely won’t happen until after the first of the year.

Several citizens commented at the Thursday meeting that the future ability of the city to generate power from local resources may be hindered under the terms of the contract.

“We are concerned that this contract does not have the flexibility for us to do local generation projects,” said George Wear of Glenwood Springs.

“We should have a contract that gives us as much flexibility as want over the next 30 years,” he said. “It’s better to have as much local power as possible, and not have power shipped to us from nuclear power plants in Iowa.”

Glenwood Springs has the opportunity to develop unique energy resources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, coal-seam combustion and biomass, said former city councilman Russ Arensman.

“For you to take action that commits this city to a largely coal generation infrastructure system for the next 30 years, it’s just not smart,” he said.

However, terms of the proposed “Schedule M” contract are not negotiable, Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Robin Millyard said.

The contract limits local power generation to 768 kilowatts for MEAN participants within the Xcel Energy/Public Service Company of Colorado control area, which includes Glenwood Springs and Aspen. That represents roughly 2 percent of MEAN’s peak load for the area, Millyard said.

“That amount is limited under the terms of the contract,” he said. “But, there is a mechanism to advance any request we want beyond that, whether it’s renewable or traditional generation.”

Millyard said he’s confident that if Glenwood Springs wanted to add generation capacity locally, it would be allowed to do so as long as MEAN and its other members were not financially implicated.

Glenwood Springs is one of the few municipalities in the region that operates its own electric utility. Since 2003, the city has been buying power from MEAN, but the existing 10-year contract expires in December 2012.

MEAN has been pushing the city to sign the longer-term contract, which would provide the lowest rates. It would also give the city a seat on the MEAN board, and provide other member services not offered under the shorter-term deal.

“I agree with most of the sentiments expressed tonight,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said of the concerns about the ability for local generation.

“But the one thing that’s missing in that is how we manage the delivery of that power,” he said. “We don’t have the expertise to do that, but our MEAN partnership gives us that.”

That partnership also gives the city greater influence in promoting renewable energy resource development on a broader scale, he said, noting that MEAN’s current energy portfolio includes 30 percent renewables.

“We also have a responsibility to provide energy at a reasonable, fair price,” Bershenyi said.

Councilman Leo McKinney said it’s worth the wait to possibly come up with a better deal that includes greater flexibility for local power production.

“Real leadership isn’t always about what’s happening now. We have to be able to anticipate what’s coming down the line,” McKinney said.

The city could negotiate a shorter-term five- or 10-year deal, Millyard said. However, the wholesale cost would be higher under those terms, he said.

Councilman Mike Gamba said it’s a question of flexibility versus cost. “Do we maintain absolute flexibility to be able to provide locally generated power, as opposed to cheaper power?

In other business at the Thursday meeting, city council:

• Agreed on a 6-1 vote to leave development application and review fees and sign permit fees at their current level. Planning staff had recommending increasing fees 10 percent for 2012 in an effort to recover costs. However, some council members were reluctant to raise fees.

“Increasing any fees right now in this economic climate might have a negative impact on development,” Councilman Gamba said. “It sends the wrong message.”

Councilman Todd Leahy had proposed rolling fees back to 2007 levels. However, that motion failed on a 4-3 vote.

Councilman Bershenyi opposed the move to keep the current rates, noting that the fees have not increased since 2010. He said fees needs to reflect the true cost to process development applications.

• Gave a conceptual review to plans by Berthod Motors to build a new auto dealership lot on the Knotty Pine property at the corner of 27th Street and South Grand Avenue. Council was generally supportive of the proposal to expand the dealership, which would maintain its existing location farther south on Grand. A formal development plan will be submitted at a later date.

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