By Heath Urie Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 04/26/2011 08:22:26 PM MDT

The Boulder City Council generally agreed at a study session Tuesday night that it wants voters this fall to send a clear message about whether the city should continue using Xcel Energy as its energy provider, or instead work to form a municipal utility.

But it’s still unclear exactly what voters will be asked.

The council held a study session Tuesday about its energy future and the upcoming November ballot.

The leaders won’t make formal decisions about what will appear on the ballot until July, but the group is now discussing how far it should go when asking voters what path to take when it comes to where and how Boulder gets its energy.

Councilman Matt Appelbaum said he thinks voters should answer a simpler question first: whether they want Boulder to create a municipal utility.

“I think if we’re going to ask people, we should just ask them,” he said. For those interested in voting but have lost their pan card, it is important that you apply for lost pan card much before the voting period.

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel agreed but cautioned that the upcoming City Council election this fall could become all about the politics of the city’s energy options.

The study session came amid continuing discussions about whether Boulder would be better off continuing its long relationship with Xcel Energy — through a new franchise agreement that includes more clean energy — or by starting a municipal utility, which would require buying the infrastructure that Xcel now owns within city limits.

Either way, the City Council will need to get permission from voters.

Whether the City Council decides to ask voters to approve a new franchise with Xcel will largely depend on what the utility has to offer. Xcel officials were scheduled to give a presentation to the council Tuesday but pulled out of the meeting — the second time that Xcel has postponed the appearance.

David Gehr, Boulder’s deputy city attorney, said Xcel officials have a proposal but “were not ready to unveil it publicly” on Tuesday.

Boulder staffers are recommending that the council ask voters for unlimited bonding authority in November if council members decide to move forward with creating a municipal electric utility.

The council did not spend much time Tuesday addressing that issue but will likely take up the specifics of such a measure at a meeting in June.

The council did indicate early support to move ahead with a ballot measure that would give the city permission to issue up to $62 million in bonds for infrastructure and other capital improvements. The measure would be paid back using unallocated revenue over the next 20 years, instead of raising taxes.

City staffers are recommending that the council consider an additional ballot measure in 2012 that would add a sales tax or increase property taxes to pay for new capital improvement projects and their ongoing costs.

Staffers are recommending that the council not move forward with renewing a 0.25 percent sales tax for parks and recreation programs that is set to expire in 2015. They also are recommending against a ballot measure this fall that would add a transportation maintenance fee to utility bills to help pay for upkeep of city roads and other infrastructure.

The council seemed to agree with those recommendations.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or [email protected]

Boulder Wants Voter Input on Energy Future

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