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Board other than City Council over Springs Utilities? Citizen feedback welcomed on idea

By Colorado Springs Utilities

       The Colorado Springs City Council, convening as the Utilities Board, continues to work on possible changes in how Colorado Springs Utilities is governed.
       This effort is to determine if a change in its governance process and structure could potentially benefit the citizen-owners, customers and the utility.
       The Utilities Board has directed that its governance process and structure review be a transparent public process and that all options are on the table, except for selling Colorado Springs Utilities. The City Council and most stakeholders
A Colorado Springs Utilities project to replace a major water main along South 21st Street started in late January and is expected to continue into April or May. The photo looks south, and the cross-street in the foreground is Bott Avenue.
Westside Pioneer photo
recognize that maintaining community ownership of Colorado Springs Utilities is a strategic advantage for the community in the future, as the utility industry faces change.
       Public input sought
       The next Utilities Board meeting on governance will be Thursday, Feb. 18 from 1 to 5 p.m., in the Blue River board room on the fifth floor of the Plaza of the Rockies, 121 S. Tejon St.
       The Utilities board will discuss what authorities a separate governing board should have. The public is invited and encouraged to share thoughts on that discussion as well as ideas or questions.
       For those who cannot attend the meeting and would like more information or to provide input, please visit the Colorado Springs Utilities Board governance process and governance structure review website at csu.org.
       If you represent an organization and would like a speaker on the issue, please let us know at gca@csu.org.
       The review began last fall and is expected to conclude this June. Any proposed change in the governance structure would be placed on a future ballot for a community vote.
       Governance process
       For the last year, the Utilities Board has been examining the process by which the board accomplishes its work and makes decisions. The governance process review is continuing in parallel with the review of governance structure.
       The board is completing a new model for governing Colorado Springs Utilities that includes the board's primary duties and responsibilities, commitments and procedures and board/CEO partnership.
       Remaining work to be done on the process includes board instructions to the CEO, authorities delegated to the CEO, annual board performance evaluation, and board monitored results.
       Governance structure
       The first step was establishing criteria by which the current board structure and any alternative board structures will be evaluated. Included in this discussion is weighing possible options for a new governance structure, such as a separately- elected Utilities Board, an appointed board or a board composed of both elected and appointed members against the current structure.
       The City Council, acting as the Utilities Board, is responsible for hiring, directing and holding the CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities accountable.
       A quantitative survey of residential customers was developed with the assistance and input of representatives from Colorado Springs Forward, Regional Business Alliance, Council of Neighbors and Organizations and the Mayor's Office. The survey tested public opinion of the current governance structure as well as several alternative separate board structures.
       Survey findings
       The survey found that many residents in our community are unfamiliar with how Colorado Springs Utilities' long-term direction is determined (governance), who makes key policy decisions about the utility and who holds the enterprise and its management accountable for its operations.
       More of those surveyed were satisfied with or indifferent about the current governance of Colorado Springs Utilities than were those who expressed dissatisfaction.
       Of the different ways in which the Utilities Board could be determined, those surveyed said they preferred:
       - A board that is elected or appointed and does not consist of City Council members.
       - A board that is a combination of elected and appointed members than a purely appointed board.
       - A board that is elected by residents of Colorado Springs with candidates having specific qualifications, specifically utility industry experience/expertise or business experience/expertise.
       - That board members be current residents of Colorado Springs, have utility industry experience and have business expertise.
       Most of those surveyed were either in favor of or indifferent about compensating Utilities Board members.

       The above piece was sent as a press release and has been edited slightly for publication as a guest column.

Posted 2/12/16; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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