City may revive advisory panel

Published 9:07 am Tuesday, October 30, 2007

By Staff
Similar board was disbanded
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council is preparing to form an electric utilities advisory board to help provide proper management of the city’s electric system.
During its meeting Monday, the council reviewed a draft ordinance that would create the advisory board. The council could hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance at its Nov. 13 meeting, possibly approving the ordinance that same night.
Washington’s electric system also serves customers outside the city limits.
The draft calls for the board to have four city residents on it, a representative from Washington Park, a representative from Bath and an at-large representative. Washington Electric Utilities provides power to customers in Washington Park and Bath. Washington’s city manager, or his or her designee, also would be a member of the commission.
Several years ago, the council dissolved a similar advisory panel.
Earlier this year, Councilman Ed Gibson suggested the city look at bringing back some version of the Washington Electric Utilities Advisory Commission.
Board members will not hold voting positions nor adopt recommendations under majority-rule requirements, the draft notes. The board will not have authority to set electric rates. The board will be required to meet quarterly during any given year, with the option to meet more often if needed.
The board “shall advise the City Council on public concerns and perspectives regarding electric utility policy issues,” reads the draft. The board’s meetings will be open to the public.
The board’s recommendations will be nonbinding on the City Council or the electric department’s staff, the draft notes. The board’s recommendations “shall be documented and forwarded to the City Council” for review and consideration, the draft reads.
Board members will not have access to individual customer accounts, the draft notes.
City Manager James C. Smith said one of the problems with the previous version of the board was that it “served as an appeals board for individual bills.” Council members made it clear they don’t want the new board to do that.
Although the draft calls for the panel to be known as the Washington Electric Utilities Commission, council members said they preferred to have it called an advisory board because it will have no authority to regulate electric rates and make financial decisions concerning the electric department.
Board members would serve three-year terms. They may be reappointed to a single additional two-year term. Board members would be appointed by the City Council during a regular monthly meeting.
For more coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.