Town Talk: Local control
New Ulm Public Utilities is a community owned utility, referred to as a public power or municipal utility. This is vastly different from a “for profit” investor-owned utility that is owned by shareholders who are many times not even part of the city the utility serves. There are many benefits of a municipal utility which include but are not limited to reliable customer service, affordable prices, economic development and local control. Local control will be the main subject of this article.
New Ulm Public Utilities is governed by a five-member commission of New Ulm residents who are appointed by the mayor. All Utility meetings are conducted under the open meeting laws governed by the State of Minnesota. Citizens have the opportunity and are encouraged to attend the Public Utilities Commission meetings to understand how, why and when decisions are being made. Citizens can reach out to their Commission representative to ask questions or speak directly to the Utility director. This is not an option with an investor owned utility, as the general manager or CEO many times resides in a headquarters many miles or states away.
Municipal utilities also directly support the local government of the city in the form of payments and contributions. These contributions can be in form of direct or indirect support such as sharing costs or labor. The largest direct support comes from the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). New Ulm Public Utilities pays the City of New Ulm 5% of its’ revenue in place of property taxes. For 2018, New Ulm Public Utilities paid the City of New Ulm approximately $1.97 million in PILOT payments. This cash payment goes to the general fund of the City to help support operations.
Indirect support to the City of New Ulm from the Utility can come in the form of tree trimming for City departments or putting up signs and banners, or holiday lighting. Sharing of equipment and personnel can add to efficiency of operations.
When the community owns the utility, the community becomes a partnership with the utility in setting priorities. Through the Commission representation to individuals who serve on committees, citizens can express their opinions on issues ranging from energy conservation and efficiency to energy resources to rates and infrastructure improvements. Municipal utilities have a long-term goal of investment in the community. We can take pride in our municipal utility from the employees who work here to the customers who receive the service, knowing that we are working for the good of the community.
The New Ulm Public Utilities Commission holds its regular meetings at 4:30 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month in the City Hall Council Chambers, 100 North Broadway. The public is always welcome to attend. For more information about the Utility, visit nupuc.com.
Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.