The Socorro City Council, at its last meeting, postponed a decision on whether to proceed with an agenda item advancing the creation of a city-owned and operated electric utility.

The action item awarding an RFP bid for “Preliminary Engineering Design for Electric Utility Substation and Distribution System” at the industrial park drew mild disapproval from Councilor Michael Olguin, who said he felt any discussion and vote concerning the electric utility should be delayed until after the mayoral election.

“I move to postpone the discussion and vote on this bid award or anything dealing with the electricity until after the election,” Olguin said.

Mayor Ravi Bhasker, who has been pushing for the utility for several years, characterized Olguin’s motion as “ridiculous” and wondered if the Socorro Electric Cooperative told Olguin to say that.

“Mr. Olguin asked to postpone this item until after the city election,” Bhasker said. “Which means it would be January, not November, right? Obviously, that’s what the co-op wants to do, is have another mayor that’s going to change the City Council’s direction and to continue getting our utility bills from the co-op.”

Olguin disagreed. “That has nothing to do with my motion,” he said. “My motion was merely by the fact that, yeah, you give us information, but I think (more information) would be beneficial for the council.”

Councilor Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez said she also favored postponing, but not necessarily until next January, and that she wanted more information from Bhasker.

“What I’m saying is we’re seeing a lot of times we’re not included (in meetings),” she said. “You might include us, but it’d be welcoming to us if you would at least invite us to one to attend one of your meetings.”

Bhasker said the meetings have all been public, and all the councilors were made aware of them.

“I did invite you. I’m not sure what the council is doing here,” he said. “The council gave me a mandate to proceed with the Socorro Municipal Electric Utility, and I’m doing it, and that’s what I’ve been elected to do. If you guys had killed the Socorro Municipal Electric Utility, well, I would’ve gone on to another project. I don’t want to kick this can down the road like you might want to. I’ve been working on this for 7-8 years now, and I’m not going to stop now.”

Bhasker added that the council had previously passed an ordinance paving the way for the utility.

Councilor Anton Salome asked to “revisit exactly what that ordinance said.”

“It basically said the city of Socorro will move forward with making this electric utility for the city of Socorro,” Bhakser said. “I’ve given you information for the past six years. I don’t know if you’ve absorbed it, but you also voted for the ordinance for the city to become a utility.”

“Was it to allow the city to have municipal electricity? Having this utility?” Salome said. “Was it to move forward with it, or to allow this city to have it?”

“This is what I’m getting at,” Chavez-Lopez said. “Nobody knows. We’re not clear.”

“I don’t have the ordinance here right now, but if you postpone something because you haven’t looked at the ordinance yourself…” he said. “In my mind, the ordinance basically said the City of Socorro will – not may – will form a utility to deliver electricity to the city of Socorro.”

Salome said he did vote for the ordinance “just in case the city would need to have a municipal electricity.”

Councilor Damian Ocampo said he did not favor postponing the motion until January.

After more debate and deliberations on not only Olguin’s motion to postpone but also the merits of the proposed electric utility itself, the council approved a compromise to postpone the vote on the bid for the substation design until the next meeting on June 20.

In other business:

  • The municipal elections were formally set Nov. 7, for the election of mayor and four council seats.
  • The Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) public meeting deadline is Aug. 18, and there will be three more meetings. Mayor Bhasker urges the public to attend and request projects to be added to the list for possible funding. There are currently 40 projects on the list.
  • The council heard a report from Jeremy Turner of Pattern Energy and passed the agreement for relocation of the natural gas pipeline for the SunZia project.
  • A request for use of city event space (rodeo and sports complex) was submitted by Socorro County Community Alternatives Program for a celebration pow-wow at the end of September. The program has obtained a grant and is only requesting the use of space from the city.
  • Code Enforcement is working with the city’s landfill to pick up bulky trash items in June.
  • The Socorro Police Department is fully staffed, with both new hires and several cadets having just finished their training.