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Power struggle at LAFCo

Will Ripon representative reflect Ripon’s position?

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POSTED May 8, 2013 2:26 a.m.

Will the Ripon position on supporting lower electrical bills be supported by city’s representative on the county commission that has a key vote on making that happen?

Dean Uecker is scheduled to attend the upcoming mayors committee meeting of the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission to discuss just that.

It’s at the mayors meeting that Uecker will be asked to address the position of Councilman Elden ‘Red’ Nutt with LAFCo to its attorneys and executive directors.

Nutt made it clear at Tuesday’s Ripon City Council meeting that he has conflict of interest involving the city’s support of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s effort to take over the service currently provided by Pacific Gas & Electric.

According to his colleagues, his vote is much needed on this matter. The city has gone on record supporting the SSJID effort, as have the councils for the cities of Manteca and Escalon.

“I have a lot of respect for Councilman Nutt but we need someone to represent Ripon (in LAFCo) on one of the most important decisions affecting us in the next 75 years,” Councilman Jake Parks said.

Vice Mayor Chuck Winn called this vote “the biggest decision since the city was incorporated in 1945.”

Nutt was vague on his position, indicating that his No. 1 priority is his elected post to the City of Ripon but, at the same time, was serious about responsibilities to LAFCo.

Nutt was re-appointed as a LAFCo Commission member by Mayor Uecker at the annual reorganization meeting earlier this year.  He’s joined on the county post by Bob Elliott, Steven B. Nilssen, Omar Ornelas, and Larry Ruhstaller.

“I have ethics and I have integrity – I will not put that in jeopardy,” said Nutt, who excused himself from the discussion.

Ripon City Attorney Tom Terpstra said that Uecker can use the mayor’s committee meeting to ask LAFCo attorneys and executive directors if Nutt’s position should be retained or replaced as a voting member. In any event, he called this request “unprecedented.”

The mayors committee meeting is scheduled for some time in May, Terpstra said.

“Since we are voting members (of LAFCo), Ripon needs to have a vote,” Councilman Leo Zuber said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s up or down.”

The SSJID needs LAFCo’s OK before it can take steps to enter the retail power business wit the expressed purpose of lower rates 15 percent across the board in Ripon, Manteca, and Escalon.

The SSJID application has been before LAFCO for going on 45 months. An independent consultant retained by LAFCo determined that SSJID was capable of both providing the service and delivering on its promise to lower rates by at least 15 percent. Now LAFCo staff wants that study redone due to the time lapse from the original report completed three years ago.

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