The pending deadline of the franchise agreement between the City of Socorro and Socorro Electric Co-op was discussed at SEC’s annual member meeting on Saturday at the Macey Center.

It was announced that three percent of the total co-op membership was required for a quorum. Two hundred sixty members were required for a quorum, and with only 133 present, no actions were allowed on items for the meeting. A financial report, with an unaudited balance sheet and income statement, was given to members, but no actions were taken.

During his presentation, Tri-State Energy’s Vice President of Communications, Lee Boughey, said the company’s priorities were reliability, affordability and responsibility.

He addressed a quote from Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker, in his letter to the editor: “The impending demise of Tri-State G&T, whose bond rating was just downgraded, will have a huge impact on electric rates for this area.”

He argued their rates would adjust for inflation, but they had been stable for seven years and had even decreased.

Lee Boughey, Tri-State Energy’s Vice President of Communications gave his arguments against Mayor Ravi Bhasker’s letter to the editor, during the SEC annual presentation on Saturday.

Boughey said although Tri-State has been downgraded in their credit rating, its happened before; in a 2016 article Tri-state’s demise was predicted, “and time after time they’ve been proven wrong.

“Look at the information and judge for yourself,” Boughey said. “Clearly, there is no crisis, and I would absolutely disagree with the mayor’s contentions.”

Joseph Herrera, SEC’s general manager, spoke about the recent history and working relationship with the City of Socorro.

Herrera talked about the 2019 Public Regulation Commission hearing where New Mexico Tech and the City of Socorro protested the rates, “We didn’t come out with what we were asking for, the 5% increase. We came out with something much less than that, but that’s the process. What happens if the city does a rate increase?”

He said the PRC would not regulate the city’s rates if they took over the electric services. The city would only be required to publish the proposal twice in the newspaper, then allow public comment and pass it.

“They are going to increase it year by year,” Herrera said.

He talked about the meetings SEC has had with the city over the last year to discuss the upcoming franchise agreement due to expire on May 17th.

According to Herrera, the city’s demands are to use more solar, pay for rooftop solar, reduce rates for New Mexico Tech, and leave Tristate Energy. Herrera criticized the three phases Bhasker proposes, which he feels serve New Mexico Tech and leave residents in Socorro as the last phase.

He said in a recent poll given SEC members, 740 people responded, about 13% of its membership to get feedback on how they felt about the situation. He said about 85% were concerned or very concerned that unnecessary alterations to SEC’s current operations might lead to increased costs and less reliable service to members.

“You are concerned, we are concerned, this board is concerned, they’ve been trying to continue that dialogue, but the goalposts keep moving,” Herrera said. “Given the mayor’s proposal to take over the electric service to Socorro, we feel this action is unnecessary and potentially harm the members interest.”

Jessica Carranza Pino| El Defensor Chieftain
Ward McCartney spoke about self generating some of their own power with solar to reduce rates.

Member Comment
During the member comment portion, two residents from Fence Lake complained about the lack of communication from SEC during the five days they were out of power. They said the power went out on a Friday and they didn’t hear from SEC until Monday about the status of the outage. Herrera responded that they would take the feedback and try to do better next time.

Jim Nelson of Magdalena asked what would happen if the city did not renew the contract. Herrera responded that they would go month to month with the city.

Ward McCartney, an SEC board member from District One, said he was speaking as a co-op member, not a board member. He presented information about solar possibilities that could help reduce rates.

“I strongly urge this co-op to work with the city because this addresses their main concern – the cost of electricity and I think we jointly do this together because I think separating is disastrous for both of us,” McCartney said.

A SEC co-op member of Socorro, who didn’t state her name, spoke to the ability of people in Socorro to come together during a crisis, “I think it’s important that we pull together and come to a resolution and not just point fingers.”

A video of the meeting is available on the Socorro Electric Co-op website, along with documents and information presented.