Co-op board calls for new district elections

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Socorro Electric Cooperative’s board of trustees voted to hold district elections later this year, deviating from unwritten guidelines it had been following for the past two years.

Though the matter wasn’t listed on the agenda at Wednesday’s monthly meeting, Trustee Leroy Anaya of Socorro brought the issue up under the agenda item “subjects by trustees.”

“Now that the map has been approved, all the districts have changed,” he said, referring to a plan to realign districts approved by members at the annual meeting on April 14. “I think what we need to do now is everybody run in the new districts.”

Anaya made a motion to that effect, which was seconded by Milton Ulibarri, also of Socorro.

“Members don’t want to wait until 2014,” Ulibarri said adamantly. “They want it now!”

In 2010, member-owners of the rural electric utility passed measures to realign districts and reduce the size of the board from 11 to five trustees, each representing one district.

Since then, the co-op has been operating under the principle that the board would be reduced by attrition, under the advice of the co-op’s previous attorney.

Then-attorney Dennis Francish said during meetings immediately following the 2010 annual meeting that trustees were entitled to serve out the remainder of their terms. He said if they were removed prior to their terms expiring, the co-op could be opening itself up to a lawsuit, in that the ousted trustees could sue Socorro Electric on the grounds they were being deprived of service they were elected to perform and the benefits that go along with the position.

With district elections taking place this October and November, four trustees would have their terms cut short by a year. Three of them are from Socorro – Luis Aguilar, Prescilla Mauldin and Donald Wolberg – while the other is Charlie Wagner of Magdalena. The others were up for re-election later this year.

Mauldin and Wagner were the only trustees to vote against Anaya’s motion in a 6-2 vote. Anaya, Ulibarri, Aguilar, Wolberg, Leo Cordova and Dave Wade voted in favor. President Paul Bustamante only votes to break ties.

After the meeting, one of the co-op’s new attorneys, Bruce Wiggins, was asked for his take on the matter. He said he’d have to study it first.

“I wouldn’t want to speculate,” he said. “We’ll have to take a look and evaluate it.”

With new maps approved, there are now five trustees representing District 3 (Socorro), two trustees representing District 1 to the north, one trustee each representing districts 2 (west) and 4 (south and east). With Jack Bruton’s resignation announced at Wednesday’s meeting, District 5 (far south and west) has no representation.

In Other Business

  • The board heard two presentations from companies bidding to become Socorro Electric’s cost of service consultants. One was by EnFrente Inc., a new company largely made up of former PNM employees. The other, held telephonically, was by the Prime Group, Inc., an Albuquerque company that has performed work for PNM and several rural electric cooperatives.

Cost of service studies are used to fix rates charged to customers.

Later in the meeting, Co-op General Manager Joseph Herrera said he had requested the electronic copy of the last cost of service study performed on Socorro Electric in 2010 by SGS Engineering of Albuquerque. Herrera said the rate analyst, Cathy “Katt” Cobb, had denied his request, so Herrera decided to terminate the co-op’s relationship with the company.

  • The board chose Trustee Wolberg as Socorro Electric’s delegate to the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting on May 30.
  • The board approved the acceptance to two bids recommended by the bid committee. One, for GIS mapping of all the meters in the co-op’s service area, went to Chapel Mapping of Warren, Pa., at a cost of $492,000. The other, for earthwork at the Burris Substation, went to Sanchez Demolition of Bosque Farms for $28,500.
  • The board approved training for three co-op employees – one to attend a NMRECA session in July and two to receive training for new software installed on co-op computers.
  • During his general manager’s report, Herrera said the co-op is continuing to replace old poles with new ones. He also reported that the co-op owns more than $2 million in inventory, that a new phone system should be in place by June and that there were 13 new connects compared to 99 cancellations during the month of March.

“This is troubling, the number of disconnects have far outweighed the number of new connects for the past year,” Wolberg commented.

Trustee Aguilar complemented Herrera on the look and organization of Socorro Electric’s renovated website.

  • The board set the date of the next meeting for Wednesday, May 23, at 5:30 p.m.

 


-- Email the author at tslast@dchieftain.com.