Author: Steve Clay
As a former Shakopee City Council member in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s and again for a couple of four-year terms ending a few years ago, as well as being a Council Liaison to the Shakopee Public Utilities (SPU) Commission for a number of years and as an appointed Commissioner to the SPU Commission, these are my observations.
The city is led by our elected leaders – the City Council, as well as our City Administrator and senior staff – who (are supposed to) work for and be guided by the Council. In 1951, those leaders decided that it would be best for the city if the electric and water utilities were no longer supervised by the City Council and staff – and instead run by an autonomous commission, appointed by the City Council, to oversee day-to-day operations of the utilities and set the electric and water rates for its citizens and property owners.
Now, in 2020, our current leaders (for reasons best known to them) have decided that they want to take back control of these utilities so that City staff can run the day-to-day operations, and the City Council can be in control of what the citizens pay for their water and electricity. In order to do that, however, they currently need voter approval to abolish the SPU Commission established in 1951.
But they’ve run into a problem.
In order to persuade the voters to abolish the SPU Commission, they need a better reason than, “We want to be the ones who control what you have to pay for your water and electricity.” That being the case, it should come as no surprise that the City is claiming there are problems at the Shakopee Public Utilities.
When there aren’t good reasons, make some up.
The City is trying to say that SPU has financial problems when in fact the exact opposite is true. SPU is operating with modern, well-maintained facilities and equipment It has a well-trained, hardworking, award-winning staff. On top of that, SPU is completely debt-free and has the proper amount of money set aside in designated funds to cover major expenses for future infrastructure needs, such as water towers and electrical substations. Our residential electric rates are 10% lower than Xcel and 5% lower than neighboring Minnesota Valley Electric Coop.
The Council is trying to convince you otherwise, but our water service has a long record of reliable service at affordable rates. It has consistently been described as high-quality water by the Minnesota Department of Health.
The irony is not lost.
As someone who has served the citizens of Shakopee both as a City Council member and as a Shakopee Public Utilities Commissioner, I can’t help but think that we might be better off if the current City Council (with the exception of Matt Lehman) were abolished and replaced with a commission that would run the city as well as the Shakopee Public Utilities has been run these past few decades.
Let’s look at areas where there is real smoke from fires that were started almost two years ago, stoked by misrepresentation of information and utilities needs for our community – and now illegal campaigning on a referendum issue. This referendum is nothing but pretext – a smear campaign to further the City’s interests in absorbing the SPU and all of its assets.
SPU looks after its customers. The City looks after itself.