City eyes SEC alternative

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Due to “poor customer relations and lack of representation,” as well as the seemingly-endless stalemate the city has fallen into with Socorro Electric Cooperative, Mayor Ravi Bhasker began a discussion about “alternative options” at the March 3 City Council meeting.

He recommended that, rather than spending money on the franchise agreement, Socorro instead look into acquisition of the SEC’s assets within the city, as well as possibly within the valley.

“And perhaps even improve those assets,” he said.

These improvements could potentially include an underground utility, which Bhasker said would beautify the city, cost less in maintenance and allow for a fiber optics system — pushing the city “into the 23rd century.”

“We’d like to wire this city to keep up with the rest of the world.”

Bhasker suggested that, aside from speaking with an experienced lawyer about the possibility of the acquisition, there ought to be a meeting of the minds with the council and trustees.

Councilor Gordy Hicks said the co-op’s members want visibility.

“They want answers, (but) they’re being shoved down a hole,” he said.

SEC Trustee Charles Wagner stepped forward with additional suggestions, which included inviting another provider, such as PNM, or possibly working together with another New Mexico cooperative.

“Members have been trying to reform the SEC since 2007. The lawyers have worked against them because they go with the majority of the trustees,” Wagner said. “When we had 11 trustees, six were from Socorro; they were the majority on the board and they worked together to maintain themselves in office.”

He said the relationship between the city and SEC has suffered from an absence of care on the part of elected officials and members who have not come to the meetings, but said he was glad that Bhasker brought his staff to the co-op’s last meeting.

“SEC should be the kind of co-op you want. It only takes having trustees that will do the kinds of things that you want them to do. That’s the problem,” Wagner said.

The mayor said the city would need to start from scratch; conducting a feasibility study and speaking with professional consultants and lawyers will all be necessary if the city wants to pursue this new alternative. He re-enforced that none of this will “happen over night.”