Motion for 2nd hearing evaporates

       City Council approved a motion at its Feb. 26 meeting to schedule a discussion-only public hearing on the solar garden expansion… and then decided it hadn't.
       The action left a public hearing April 9 as the only one that citizens will have on the matter, with councilmembers also planning to vote that day.
       Here's what happened:
       Agenda item (3.B-7) was a request from Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). Its purpose was to schedule the April 9 public hearing, needed under law because the 20-year garden contract (with area solar vendors) will change CSU's electric rate schedules.
       City Councilmember Tim Leigh reiterated previous objections, saying that CSU has more pressing financial concerns and that the plan needs “deeper vetting” before going forward.
       Utilities CEO Jerry Forte agreed with the aspect that more public awareness is needed, saying that before the April 9 hearing his enterprise will be seeking ways to “engage the community.”
       Following up on that was City Councilmember Brandy Williams, who has led council's solar-garden advocacy. Before making a motion to approve the CSU request, she said she wanted to find “a balance that meets in the middle.”
       This was her motion: “I move we approve 3.B-7 as presented, and between now and April 9 have a public hearing. I think a public hearing would be a venue where you [looking at Leigh] could do exactly what you're asking. You could get both sides of the issues, whatever those sides end up being. I think as presented it has been CSU's presentation and the [solar] industry's presentation. Would that meet you in the middle?”
       Instead of answering Williams' question, Leigh began asking questions of Forte, as to whether the solar program is needed from either regulatory or financial standpoints.
       City Council President Scott Hente cut into this, saying he needed a second to Williams' motion.
       Council President Pro-tem Jan Martin seconded.
       Councilmember Angela Dougan spoke next, saying there was need for more of an “open discussion,” but eventually asking that the matter be tabled for “five to six weeks” to get a better sense of public opinion.
       Then council voted on the motion. The tally was 6-3. Leigh and Dougan were opposed, along with Lisa Czelatdko, who represents District 3 (which includes the older Westside).
       Forte asked council if it would be OK for him to work with Hente “to establish that public hearing date.”
       “I believe that's acceptable,” Hente replied.
       At this point, Czelatdko , who has previously ex-pressed solar-garden support, made clear why she had voted against the motion. Pointing out that council had voted to approve the plan at its Utility Board meeting Feb. 20, she said, “Is everything that comes in front of this body, if there's a couple of members in contention, we're going to have a public meeting about it?”
       Czelatdko also commented that this was the “fourth time” such had happened with council items, adding that such is “perpetuating this indecisiveness” (of council) and is “frustrating.”
       City Attorney Chris Melcher interjected with a question of Hente. “Before you move on, I'd like to clarify - the materials submitted by CSU and Mr. Forte state that the public hearing will be April 9. Is that correct?”
       Hente: “That's correct.”
       Melcher: “So it was unclear. I don't think it's necessary for the CEO and the [council] president-”
       Hente: “Thanks for clarifying. I was getting ready to say-”
       Williams: “So that is the date. I want to make sure I understand this.”
       Melcher: “I'm asking council's direction on that.”
       Williams: “Is council OK that April 9 is the date of the public hearing?”
       Hente: “That was the motion that was made and what the CEO presented.”
       Williams: “I want to make sure that everyone's in agreement before we walk out of this room. April 9 is the date of the public hearing.”
       No councilmember disagreed.

Westside Pioneer article