Candidates have varying takes on upcoming YVEA rate increases | SteamboatToday.com

Candidates have varying takes on upcoming YVEA rate increases

Customers of Yampa Valley Electric Association across its 7,000-square-mile service area who want to vote in the 2017 board election might want to pull their ballots out of the basket on the coffee table and mail it today. 

Ballots must be received by June 21, unless voters plan to vote in person at the annual meeting, which will be held at 3 p.m. June 22 in Steamboat Springs.

Elections for the board of directors of the electrical cooperative, which serves a 7,000-square-mile area that includes Craig, Hayden and Steamboat, but not Oak Creek, in addition to a vast rural areas that reaches into Southern Wyoming, are typically sedate.

But in 2017, YVEA is on the cusp of imposing rate hikes in July 2017 and 2018, and former Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid has some issues with YVEA, so he is challenging District 3 board incumbent Mike Brinks, as is Jean Stetson.

Kinkaid, who had a 33-year career in electric power generation and is also a past Moffat County school board member, attended a program for local government officials at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government last year. He said he's skeptical about the "smart meters" YVEA is installing, and he’s not a fan of rate increases.

"I'm not sold that we need the rate increases," he said. "In the Craig area, we're still in the recession over here. Hitting us with a rate increase hits us even more.”

Recommended Stories For You

YVEA reports its typical "small general service members" will see a monthly increase of $3.95 in its bills beginning July 1, followed by another increase of about $2.80 a month on July 1, 2018. The monthly service fee will also increase by $3 in 2017  and again in 2018.

Kinkaid wonders why, if YVEA needs more funds, it is expanding its new headquarters in Steamboat Springs.

"How seriously did YVEA look at buying or building a new headquarters here?" he asked in an e-mail.  "Why not spend a lot less on the headquarters by putting it in Moffat County and at the same time add to our tax base? Routt County's tax base is just fine.  Our schools could have really used the money. Our property taxes are lower here, too.  That would save members money."

Brinks said the rate increases are needed to catch up with maintenance of the cooperative’s electrical infrastructure after years of neglect under different management. He defended YVEA President and General Manager Diane Johnson for pushing for the rate increases.

"This rate increase was put in motion two years ago with numbers from a cost analysis from 2015 and a rate study in 2016," he said. "I think Diane is entirely correct – this maintenance has been deferred for years and years and years, and we're trying to play catch-up now. A lot of our underground lines are getting to their 35-year useful life. They're just worn out."

Brinks said YVEA is seeking to economize on their replacement. Instead of digging them up and replacing all of them, the cooperative is looking to use a new method of injecting resin into the lines to extend their life significantly at a 20 to 25 percent savings over digging the lines up and replacing them.

The third challenger for the District 3 board seat is Stetson, a rancher and accountant for a construction company in Craig. Stetson served on the board of directors of Northwest Colorado Health for nine years, serving as board chair for three of those years.

Stetson has been active in endangered species issues with interests in both ensuring that humans can remain on the landscape with endangered species while conserving land use management practices.

We created "working groups and set out to find solutions that would allow natural resource users to make their living, but at the same time, not endanger sage grouse and protect the habitat," she said.

Other candidates running unopposed for  the YVEA board are six-year member Tom Fox of Steamboat Springs and another six-year member, Larry Ellgen of Craig.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

If you go

What: Yampa Valley Electric Association annual Meeting (last chance to vote for board of directors who will be offered to speak near the top of the agenda

When:  Registration 3 p.m., agenda 3:30 p.m. June 22

Where: 2211 Elk River Road, Steamboat Springs