There were a variety of speakers at the community input meeting at City Hall last week.
Among the issues addressed were efforts to bring broadband internet to the community, electricity rates and economic development.
Some of the speakers on those issues included state economic development officials, representatives from a utility company, an electric cooperative and an energy supplier. New Mexico Tech President Stephen Wells and County Manager Delilah Walsh were also among the speakers, as were a few of the local business leaders.
The biggest story from the meeting may not have been the issues on the agenda, but who was absent.
No one at the meeting represented the Socorro Electric Cooperative.
SEC General Manager Joseph Herrera was invited to the meeting. He declined the invitation, stating he had a prior commitment. He also stated that members of the co-op board of trustees weren’t going to be able to attend the meeting.
He also stated a request about having the opportunity to shape the agenda.
We’re not going to question Herrera’s statement in the letter in response to the mayor’s invitation that he had a prior commitment and couldn’t make the meeting or a private meeting with Mayor Ravi Bhasker that Bhasker suggested in his response to Herrera’s reply.
We find it hard to believe – however – that all seven members of the co-op board of trustees had a prior commitment that was more important than a public meeting that addressed what might be the most important issue to co-op members – the exploration by the City of Socorro of offering electric utility service.
There have been suggestions by defenders of the co-op’s absence that maybe they were concerned they were walking into an ambush. Even the mayor himself conceded that personal issues may have kept representatives away.
There were criticisms aimed in the cooperative direction. There were concerns about the co-op’s rates, especially the industrial rates.
While we understand those concerns, there were legitimate issues raised at the meeting. And concerns about utility rates were raised by people who clearly did not have a personal agenda at the meeting such as Dr. Wells and Walsh, who represent a couple of the SEC’s largest customers at the meeting.
Herrera’s letter to the mayor expressed a concern about newer members of the board of trustees not being caught up to speed.
We wouldn’t have expected the co-op representative to have all of the answers at the meeting. It would have been nice to have heard the co-op’s side of the story in dealing with TDS in the company’s effort to bring broadband internet to the community, and one reason we sought to share their side in a story in today’s edition.
It would have been nice for a representative to hear what other co-ops, municipalities, utilities and energy suppliers are doing, and to hear from the business, education and community leaders about their concerns that current electric rates and the lack of broadband internet service are hurting economic development efforts.
And then there was the elephant in the room: Concerns from county residents that their rates would sky-rocket if the city goes it alone and completely offers electric service to businesses, industries and residents within its limits.
The co-op missed a chance to show good will, if not to city officials, to those in the room with no connection to city government.
City officials expressed a desire at the meeting for the co-op to come to the table.
Although some may take that with a grain of salt, we’ll take them at their word.
We’ll also take Herrera at his word when he told The Chieftain in an interview months ago that he would be willing to talk with city officials about their exploration of offering utility service.
There have been those who have suggested a mediator to help bring them to the table. Perhaps that’s a good idea, whether it’s with a member of the PRC, MRGEDA or maybe even The Chieftain.
It really shouldn’t come to that. The mayor, the city council and the cooperative board were elected to do a job. The general manager of the co-op was hired to do a job.
They all work for us.
It’s time for them to quit talking at each other.
It’s time for them to start talking to each other.