Pueblo looking to cut ties with Black Hills Energy in 2020 - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Pueblo looking to cut ties with Black Hills Energy in 2020

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After several unfavorable rate increase requests from Black Hills in the last year, city council has passed a resolution to pursue an off ramp option in 2020--meaning the city would be in charge of managing its own utilities.

"Commissioner [Terry] Hart and I had started looking at this last summer," recalled city council president Steve Nawrocki.

"And I don't mean last summer, I mean the summer before--in 2016," he added.

Nawrocki says it was Black Hills' recent proposal to double the annual charge for the city's LED street and traffic lights that appeared to be the final straw for city council members.

"I would refer to it as a slap in the face."

Manny and Roz de Lizarriturri say they experienced similar frustration recently.

"We installed solar panels on our home on May of this year," they told News5, while motioning to solar panels on their roof, while standing in the backyard.

They say just a few months later, they received a letter from Black Hills--proposing to double its monthly charge for solar customers.

They're holding a meeting on October 10th to discuss ways to prevent a rate increase for solar customers, at 6:30 p.m., at the Rawlings Library.

"We're not only concerned about solar customers that have to pay this extra charge--we're worried about solar providers," said Roz de Lizarriturri.

"If they can't sell as much solar [products] here because the incentives are taken away or the cost of energy is more, then they may go out of business," she added.

It's one of many things the future Off-Ramp Commission, which is being formed right now, will have to look into as they try and find the best way to exit their Black Hills agreement.

Nawrocki says it will initially come at a cost, telling News5 they're already looking to add $250,000 to the city's 2018 budget for professional services, directly related to the off ramp.

"They always say 'spend money to make money.'  Well I think we need to spend money to make sure that we're on the right course," he said.

"In Boulder, they've taxed themselves to be able to raise the additional money they need to pursue this.  I don't think we need to do anything but be very up front that this is not going be a cheap proposition.  But at this point, we're only looking to initiate it with a quarter of a million dollars."

Nawrocki says the city would plan to take over all Black Hills customers within Pueblo County, not just the city.

Ultimately, voters will have to approve the final off-ramp proposal before the city can take over utilities in 2020.

The city has not specified where their new power source would come from.

Several city council members plan to meet with Boulder city officials--who opted for a similar off-ramp--to get a better idea what route they took, and what challenges they've encountered.

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