Austin Energy study won't make deadline

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by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE NEWS and Photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 3, 2012 at 6:20 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 3 at 6:29 PM

AUSTIN --  The City of Austin will spend more than $50,000 on a study that won’t be ready in time for the council to cast an important vote.

In June, the Austin City Council requested staff to hire a consultant to review how other municipalities run public utilities. The study’s goal is to help the council determine if a board should run Austin Energy.
 
The council must decide by Aug. 20 if it wants to put the board option on the November ballot, giving voters discretion on who should run the electric company.
 
The study won’t be ready until at least October.

"The people of Austin need to be very careful what they do here,” says Rollingwood resident John Clary. The retired state employee is one of more than 50,000 Austin Energy customers who live outside city limits.

He and others feel they didn’t have one person representing their concerns when the council recently passed about a seven percent rate increase.

Clary’s bill will increase about $26 a month. "We have no say over that in our little town of Rollingwood," said Clary.

Councilman Bill Spelman spearheaded the $54,000 study. He wants to put the board option on the November ballot.

He’s asking voters to trust that the council and staff will implement a comprehensive board plan down the road once they are given the green light by voters.

KVUE investigative reporter Andy Pierrotti asked Spelman, "So, you want voters to decide on something, and you haven't even developed a plan yet?" Spelman answered, "Yea, exactly." Pierrotti then asked, "Is that wise?" "I don't know. I don't know whether it is or not," Spelman said.

Councilwoman Kathie Tovo says she won’t vote until the study is completed.

"I believe that it would be premature to move forward and try to make a decision about this in August," said Tovo.

Spelman says the city council has two options -- either vote now, before the study is done and put the issue on the November ballot, or wait until 2015, which is the next opportunity voters have a chance to change the charter.

John Kahn, a former city attorney, is the consultant.

Stay with KVUE News as we continue to follow this story.

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