Kit Carson and Taos: the Yo Yo News
The Story Below May be Bad for your Health!
Phone PRC Commissioner: Valerie Espinoza
Between November 14 and Dec. 9, the Public Regulation Commission will hold a final hearing to consider the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative request for an increase in residential rates. The process has gone on for almost a year.
My residential power bill, dated 9/17/16 thru10/17, skyrocketed due to the “Fuel and Purchased Power Cost Adjustment Clause” (FPPCAC): two meters cost an additional $32 each for the fuel charge, plus the meter charge of $14 and the kilowatt cost. (Study your bill.) KCEC is going wild. Why?
First, the PRC allowed KCEC to pass the cost of fuel used to generate power on to members last March. KCEC missed the deadline to file but the Commissioners excused their tardiness for the second year in a row. The PRC also ignored Interveners Link Summers and Jerome Lucero who protested the fuel charge pass through.
Second, commercial or business and governments, town, county, schools, hospital, water and sanitation districts, also experienced a rate increase during the hearing process of 2016. None of the above protested, so their rates skyrocketed in September.
Where were the elected officials?
Third, the PRC will soon allow a residential rate increase, recommended by the Hearing Examiner. The Hearing Examiner has recommended a higher rate increase than either the PRC staff or interveners believe is “just and reasonable.”
Phone PRC Commissioner Valerie Espinosa and protest: 888-427-5772.
At the September rate hearing for non-residential rates, Ms. Espinoza was more interested in concluding the hearing in time for her birthday party than hearing from four interveners. Summers, Lucero, Gene Sanchez, and Arsenio Cordova were ignored by the PRC commissioners.
KCEC’s new “power” partner, Guzman Energy, which buys electricity on the open market has apparently levied the current fuel charge. Eleven other Coops in New Mexico buy electricity from the Tri-State Generating and Transmission Cooperative, which has 43 members in New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Etc..
KCEC paid $37 million to leave Tri-State on about July 1 (though it still owes $5 million for the Plains-Tri-State Merger back in 2000). According to the records, KCEC borrows money to pay for operations and diversification but only pays back the interest, not the principle. So they borrow more money to pay more interest.
In addition to owing Guzman, a financial outfit, $37 million for the front money paid to buy-out the Tri-State contract, KCEC assumed maintenance costs of an unknown amount for Transmission Lines and Substations. The $37 million Guzman/Tri-State buyout did not include any assets, just expenses. Why?
When KCEC CEO Reyes appeared in front of the Taos County Commission last summer, Commissioners Blankenhorn and Fambro applauded the CEO for his “vision of economic development” or diversification and Broadband plans. According to an Intervener, Mayor Barrone and former Town Councilor Andrew Gonzales, a KCEC employee, voiced support for the KCEC rate increase on local radio.
Recently, El Prado Water and Sanitation District (EPSWD) guru, John Painter has been mumbling to members that the “District” will have to raise its rates because of high electricity costs. EPSWD has already raised GRT and Property taxes in the District.
Blankenhorn et al at the County supported higher taxes to fund Holy Cross Hospital. But the Commissioners did not do a “request for proposals” or attempt to replace the “moribund management” called Taos Health Systems.
Those of you who just received your Taos County Property bills will note the higher property taxes. The Town raised GRT (gross receipts taxes) earlier this year. We have some of the highest GRT rates in the state. Apparently, the good old boys at the Coop, Town, County, EPWSD, Hospital, etc. can’t get enough.
Mayor Barrone has attached ugly green wires and green electric boxes permanently to the trees in the center of the Plaza. He plans, apparently, to burnish the dark skies with Christmas Tree lights this winter. Meanwhile the Town and its taxpayers can increase their contributions to KCEC coffers. The Town’s “Historic Preservation Commission” apparently finds Christmas Tree cords and boxes a “contributing” factor in the historic district.
Reyes told Commissioners last summer after the Guzman deal that the Coop was worth $200 million (but he didn’t say how much debt, estimated to be about $150 million, there was). And is the Coop worth $200 million?
Now business owners pay their electricity charge and, as taxpayers, the County and Town’s electricity charges. Soon, residential members, who are business owners and taxpayers, will be paying three times, residence, business, government buildings to support the failing Coop. The Trustees can’t get enough travel time without the rise in rates. Reyes gets paid an estimate $250,000 plus perks though he’s missed “tier” six our of eight years. (TIER is a standard federal benchmark that measures Coop stability.)
KCEC has lost about $8,5 million in its attempt at diversification during the last 15 years: Propane, Telecom, Command Center and Call Center, according to estimates by interveners in the rate case and answers to interrogatories.
According to interrogatories answered by Reyes, the CEO spends 40% of his time on the “Broadband/Telecom/Fiber project. Members, both commercial and residential, frequently voice their frustration, saying they call the Coop but can’t get hooked up to fiber: the Broadband program broke ground in 2010 or 2011 but who is counting? The Coop has burned through more than $64 million in federal grants and loans for Broadband since 2010. And the Coop has spent an estimated $5 million from electric revenues on Broadband-related costs to serve, a total, they say of about 2600 members so far.
According to PRC regulations, Coops aren’t supposed to spend income from electricity revenue on diversification. Reyes himself could not explain the “consolidated financial reports” during the hearings to the Hearing Examiner. Interveners, including yours truly, believe Reyes wants the rate increase primarily to fund the completion of the Broadband project.
According to Flavio, who empties waste paper baskets at the Coop, the out-of-state contractors, who installed the fiber network, used the wrong colors for connections. Local technicians can’t decipher the hydra-headed puzzle at drop boxes. It’s as if you connected black to red and red to black when you tried to jump your car battery. Fiber technology, however, is way more complicated than jumper cables.
The really disappointing part of this story concerns the good old boys like Mayor Barrone, Councilor Hahn, Commissioners Blankenhorn and Fambro who support a corrupt Coop rate culture and expanding government tax and spend culture while ignoring the historic local culture in general.
In the past, those mentioned above fought the E-911/Command center folly and stopped the Coop coup from an attempted take-over of public safety. Now the “good old boys” have joined the so-called “Trustees” at KCEC. Apparently our elected leaders aim to pilfer the purse of ratepayers and taxpayers in order to pursue their dreams of big hotels and utopian goals of “economic development.”
Historically business cycles, like tourism, rise and fall in Taos like YO YOs. Who are the YO YOs?
Your wonderful weekly is MIA on these issues ever since the new editor and long-time publisher muzzled reporter J.R. Logan. Here’s how crass the weekly is: recently I paid $285 for my buddy Whitey’s obituary in The Taos News. As long as owner Robin McKinney and publisher Chris Baker are getting a cut of the action, they’re happy: “till death do us part.”
Mayor Barrone and Councilor Hahn will tell you, “Whaley has nothing good to say.” Indeed, I have nothing good to say about the pickpockets and the pirates at the Coop, Town, and County or Taos News. But that’s just my opinion. As former County Commissioner and current KCEC Trustee Virgil Martinez is fond of saying, “I feel sorry for Taos County.” At least we know who Trump is. Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer in Taos.