Socorro City Hall

Socorro City Hall

Fed up with high rates from Socorro Electric Cooperative, Socorro City Council took its first step to establish its own municipal utility.

In a 3 to 1 decision, with Councilors Anton Salome, Peter Romero and Deborah Dean voted to approved starting the process with Guzman Energy for long-term wholesale power, scheduling of services and project capital financing.

Voting against the measure was Michael Olguin Jr. Councilors not present at the July 8 meeting were Mary Ann Chavez Lopez, Toby Jaramillo, Nick Fleming and Gordy Hicks.

Guzman’s next step will be a Preliminary Engineering Report. They also will do a detailed business analysis to determine if the project if financially feasible.

The city will incur no expense for its recent decision. Guzman is footing the bill for next step of the process.

The rates of Guzman’s proposal for long-term wholesale power are far cheaper than those offered by Tri-State Generation which sells electricity to Socorro Electric Cooperative (SEC), which, in turn serves city customers. In addition, the rates and financing proposed to the city were based on a seven-year contract.

If the money and financial numbers aren’t feasible for Socorro’s municipal utility, Guzman will not move forward into the project’s second phase.

Guzman Energy is the same company selected by Kit Carson Cooperative, who terminated its services from Tri-State Generation with a penalty, according to Ed Reyes of Enchantment Energy Consulting.

Socorro is looking at offering limited service at first to New Mexico Tech, the industrial park and businesses and other facilities along the Highway 60 corridor, such as Solaro Energy, Socorro General Hospital, Socorro High School and the Socorro County Detention Center.

During a June council meeting, Mayor Ravi Bhasker, noted the city of Socorro represents about 45 percent of Socorro’s Electric power load. With the city’s recent decision to begin the establishment of a municipal utility, SEC would lose almost half of Socorro’s power load.

SEC letter

Prior to awarding the bid to Guzman, SEC made a final pitch to the city council to engage in a conversation.

A letter penned by SEC Board President Anne Dorough, was read by Jimmy Capps, SEC’s director of communications and public affairs. Dorough noted the SEC Board of Trustees had appointed a committee of trustees representing the city of Socorro (Donald Wolberg PhD., Leroy Anaya and Luis Aguilar) “to engage in a dialogue” with similar committee of city council members.

During the proposed meeting Dorough hoped the city and trustees could talk about the effect of the city establishing its own municipality would have on SEC members within the city.

Two years ago in July, 2017, Bhasker reminded Capps he attended a co-op board meeting hoping to engage in a dialogue with trustees.

“We got 4 or 5 minutes to speak at the meeting and not one comment was made from any of the board members or chairman. We’re at the end of our timeline and the co-op is just presenting this to us,” said Bhasker. “I fear there is some ulterior motives to undermine our position.”

Bhasker criticized Capps for bringing up this issue in a public forum of the meeting rather than putting it on the agenda. “You’re dumping this on us right when we’re in the process of ratifying aproposal from Guzman Energy.”

“It would have been more impactful and felt their heart was in it if this would have been done two years ago,” Bhasker said of SEC’s olive branch extension.

In other business, council:

• Heard from Beta Sigma Phi members thanking the city for its participation in helping sponsor the annual Beta Sigma Phi state convention.

• Was informed by Cheri Lerew of an EPA hearing to be conducted at 6 p.m., Thursday, August 11, in Socorro City Hall council chambers, on the Eagle Picher Superfund Site.

• Approved the participation in the South Central Council of Governments for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

• Awarded the bid for broadband design and development to Sacred Wind.