Letter to the Editor: Charter Chapter V – Utilities – A Reality Check

By FRAN BERTING
County Councilor

Several former members of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) fear that the rewritten Charter Chapter V will result in Council imposing hidden taxes and wildly increased utility rates, transferring Utility revenues to the County general fund, overturning BPU membership for political reasons, and unilateral control of BPU operations.

The current Chapter was passed in 1968 to ensure that these things could not happen, and indeed they have not, as trumpeted by those opposing the rewritten Chapter. However, a careful reading of the new Chapter shows that, although the structure has been rearranged and some wording clarified, the exact same precautions are still intact.

In fact, added is the restriction that Council can only “approve, disapprove or remand to the Board” but has “no authority to revise Board recommendations”. Added to that is one of only two major changes made – the requirement for resolution if the Board and Council fail to agree. This safety valve is obviously a last resort process, requiring three months, two public input sessions and a one more than majority Council vote – hardly likely to result in   hidden taxes, soaring rates or unilateral control.

The other major change is also a last resort process if a Board member is causing dysfunction of the Board and the Board does not remedy the situation. In this small town where Board members and Council members know each other personally, a 6 to 1 vote of Council in public to remove one or more Board members is going to be extremely difficult and not caused by “group think” or “politics”, as feared.

These changes merely add authority to match Council’s responsibility to the citizens, which is required for good government, if the normal reasonable Board/Council relationship should fail.

As there is no basis in the new Chapter wording for the fears, there are no valid reasons to vote “no”.

Please vote “YES” for Ballot Question #2.

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