at the Citizen Power Alliance 2010 Wind Conference
Public Utility Commission dissolved by ROB PRICE
|BATH - It took about 30 seconds to dissolve Bath's 76-year-old Public Utility Commission. |
Members of the Bath village board last week voted 3-1 to abolish the organization, which traditionally has oversees operations of the Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems. Trustees offered no official comments as they registered their votes, and about 150 area residents watched in silence as the meeting continued with the regular business of the agenda.
Only at the end of the meeting did a hint of the underlying controversy surrounding the Commission surface, as village resident Pat Eaton asked the board what it planned "to do" with BEGWS.
"We're going to manage it," said Mayor David Wallace, adding he was not going to accept public comment on the matter. "I'm not going to have this debate," Wallace said.
Barbara Scudder, chairman of the now defunct Commission, said the board's action "disappointed" her and suggested Wallace has wanted to abolish the Commission for some time. "The mayor has been very patient to wait for a board he can control," Scudder told The Courier.
Board member Donna Simonson cast the sole negative vote against the resolution, which village trustees initially approved last month. Simonson said trustees first should have met with Commission members in an effort to iron out differences. "I think (dissolution) should be a last resort," she told The Courier. "It was treated as a first resort."
Monday's meeting, held at the Bath fire department station, was held a month after a public hearing in the same location, during which a majority of speakers urged the board to keep the Commission intact. Several speakers warned the village board it had neither the time nor expertise to oversee BEGWS.
Wallace, however, in a guest editorial published in The Courier, announced he had "lost confidence" in the Commission's ability to oversee BEGWS. The mayor pointed to several issues including:
• Unresolved questions over how BEGWS would make payments on a proposed $9 million upgrade to its electric infrastructure. "Questions from the village board about the repayment of this amount were not adequately answered," Wallace wrote.
• Strained labor relations between the management of BEGWS and its labor force. Wallace alleges "a long standing and intesne conflict between labor and management" is hindering normal operations within the utility.
• An effort by commission members to have Matthew Benesh, director utilities, appointed to the board of directors of Corning Natural GAs, from which BEGWS purchase its natural gas supplies. Wallace charged the appointment would have created "a clear conflict of interest" for Benesh.
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