Opinion: No viable reason to give utility control to city

Submitted by Bob Loonan

This opinion piece was published in accordance with the Shakopean’s opinion submission guidelines. To read the guidelines or submit your own piece, click here.

One of the many important decisions voters will need to make this election pertains to the current structure of how utilities are managed for Shakopee rate payers. The current structure was put in place over 70 years ago by those elected to run the city. Why did they make this move? All we can do is speculate, for none of us were there. 

The current arrangement has big advantages if the city council plays their role of appointing qualified people to be commissioners. It is not my aim to call out anyone or disparage any individuals, I just want to give people something to think about. 

When a commission is appointed, it allows for, but does not guarantee, the involvement of the most qualified people with specific expertise to be at the table making decisions. It also creates a distance between data-based decisions and politically pressured ones. 

When I started looking into the ballot question, I saw that what we have happening here in Shakopee is going very well, contrary to what some are saying. Our utility rates very competitive, while planning financially for future development we all know is coming. The water quality problem contended does not exist based on any standards used. The system we have in place puts the cost burden on the developers creating the increased demand for utility capacity, and not on those rate payers who do not make a profit from the development. 

There are concerns that giving the city full control over the funds now set aside to pay for future things like new water towers, increased water and sewer lines and utility infrastructure, would create an opportunity to allocate those funds for other city projects. That would leave rate payers funding growth through increased costs of electricity and sewer/water. The city can easily dispel this concern by creating an ordinance, preventing this from being an option. 

There has been no viable reason given to hand full control over to the city. 

An independent audit did find compensation mistakes being made that now have been corrected. But that same report pointed out why someone would have made those assumptions regarding compensation based on how the statutes are written. There have been no criminal acts discovered, because I expect there have been none committed. 

If there is a sincere desire to make our utilities even better, we need to shine light on the qualifications of who gets appointed to the commission.   If there is concern about the level of expertise of the commission then we need to have a conversation about a qualification filter, as to who can be considered. I sense everyone involved is doing their best and means well. I see concerning uncertainties if we make this drastic change. 

I have been scolded to do my homework, read the reports, and learn the facts. Well I have done that, and I oppose eliminating our utility board. The data raises questions as to why this is even being considered. But that conversation is for a later date. Please vote no.


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