Mayor Nick Gradisar and the water board blindsided the City Council and taxpayers with closed door negotiations between the water noard and San Isabel Electric when the goal of the Electric Utilities Commission was a city-owned utility.

The council was told this would be a competitive bid for the operations side. However, when the water board presented its Power Point to the council, San Isabel’s and the water board’s logos were side by side. Also side by side were Seth Clayton, the water board’s executive director, and Reg Rudolph, general manager of San Isabel, who is expecting to be the distribution systems operator.

Obviously, mucho canoodling.

The mayor continues to publicly report one company in Pueblo pays more than 49 percent more for electricity than the same business in Colorado Springs. I assumed the mayor would have copies of invoices.

I requested invoices from Colorado Springs Utilities and Black Hills Energy. I was provided only one month to assess. I informed the mayor I could not make comparisons from one month.

I requested one year from each utility, which I received. The comparisons are confusing. The service address on the bill is different than the actual address of the business.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s records show yet another address at a vacant building. There also were two meters on the Black Hills invoices. One meter with consistent amounts and the other fluctuating.

I asked the mayor about these two meters. He reported the owner stated the costs were all associated with the one business. It’s difficult to makes sense of this.

The bottom line is the Pueblo business uses 1,500 to 7,000 more watts per month than the Colorado Springs location. So it’s difficult to confirm rates of more than 49 percent.

Clayton clearly stated rates would remain the same or increase.

The water board is not guaranteeing lower rates. The mayor refused to add any costs in the ballot language, giving the water board a blank check.

Clayton reported it is necessary to become a regional authority, meaning Canon City and others would have to vote to allow Pueblo water to take over. The Public Utilities Commission will not allow a city to separate rate increases for surrounding areas. The higher the population density, the lower the rates.

You must view the Feb. 10 work session, not the council meeting, on the City of Pueblo Facebook page.

The only solid plan is selling city property for $10 million to pay attorneys/consultants to begin the process. This is no different than Boulder.

Boulder originally approved $8 million to fund Boulder’s Energy Future’s agenda of becoming a branch of government. This branch overspent $2 million, which then came out of Boulder’s general fund.

In 2016, Boulder voted for an additional $16 million, somehow convincing the public the project had a chance. Maybe a one in a million chance, presenting in a positive spin. Remember Jim Carrey in "Dumb and Dumber"?

The mayor pushed this issue like the Democratic whip. Black Hills was preparing for a campaign, knowing that either the council or a citizen’s petition would be on the ballot. I felt it was important for the city to control the ballot language rather than Pueblo’s Energy Future.

Here are average monthly 2019 rates from the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities Report: Colorado Springs $90, San Isabel $120, San Luis $128, Sangre De Cristo $130, Black Hills $122.

For small commercial, Colorado Springs $210, San Isabel $317, Black Hills $296. For large commercial: Colorado Springs $4,300, San Isabel $6,100, Black Hills $5,700.

Keep in mind that Black Hills uses no coal and will be 60 percent renewable in two years. Way ahead of the game compared to any city our size.

The other utilities listed are still burning coal and must decommission those plants by 2030. Colorado Springs will be forced to decommission Drake Power Plant, costing up to $1 billion for one of the largest polluters in the state.

Colorado Springs plans to build a natural gas plant to replace Drake. Colorado Springs can expect significantly higher rates.

Black Hills rates climbed from 2008 to 2012 with renewable purchases and the new natural gas plant. Rates stabilized in 2012 and are coming down.

Black Hills is the only company mentioned that has lowered rates over the last few years while the others are already beginning to climb. Vote "no"!

Lori Winner is an at-large member of the Pueblo City Council.