Advocacy group encourages Holyoke to push for renewables within MEAN

    In its presentation to Holyoke City Council last Tuesday, April 2, a Gunnison-based nonprofit urged members to help lead the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska away from its reliance on fossil fuels.
    Sustainable Development Strategies Group research associate Victoria Jarosh told the council that the agency’s policies are ripe for change as renewable development becomes more affordable and desirable due to environmental concerns.
    “Coal is becoming more and more of a stranded asset, and we’re seeing these policies that MEAN has, restricting themselves from progressing into the future,” she said.
    Holyoke gets about 52 percent of its electricity through MEAN, with the other 48 percent supplied by the Western Area Power Administration. A MEAN representative met with the council March 19 to address criticisms of the agency made in a recent SDSG study.
    Jarosh discussed the findings of the study and the obstacles that MEAN has allegedly put in the way of renewable development. She claimed that a moratorium on local generation implemented by the agency in 2005 and MEAN’s fixed-cost recovery charge both curb local pushes for renewable development. MEAN disputes SDSG’s interpretation of these policies.
    Jarosh said the local moratorium prevented one Gunnison university from meeting its renewable energy goals. She also cited a 2017 survey of MEAN members performed by the agency, in which 81 percent of respondents said MEAN should set an agencywide renewable energy goal. The average recommended target percentage was 26 percent.
    Jarosh said SDSG’s goal isn’t to pick a fight with the agency, but rather to advise and support its member communities, should they choose to push for renewable development.
    “We’re not with MEAN or against MEAN. We’re just looking at this from an outside perspective and asking what can be done,” she said. “What municipalities like Holyoke can do is encourage MEAN to move toward the future and establish that renewable energy goal.”
    City Superintendent Mark Brown, who represents Holyoke on the MEAN board, later said that the City doesn’t have a renewable energy goal at this time, beyond the fraction of renewables included in its current energy blend.
    
Library board promotes operating agreement discussion
    Several members of the Heginbotham Library Board showed up Tuesday with Katherine Weadley of the Colorado Library Consortium and Kim Seter of Denver law firm Seter and Vander Wall, P.C. to announce their desire to collaborate on an operating agreement with the City.
    Review and approval of a draft agreement was tabled at the recommendation of City Attorney Al Wall in January. Seter helped write the draft and said he wanted to meet with Wall and the City to facilitate an agreement.
    “Just to let you know who I am, I introduce myself to the city attorney and see if we could have some conversations with him to put some more detail in it and bring it back to you so operations can function smoothly and within the statutes,” he said.
    
City agrees to golf rate hikes, $30K in immediate support
    Holyoke Golf Board director Jason Redman spoke to the council April 2, asking its approval to raise green fees and requesting an annual contribution above its usual $15,000 spot.
    Redman cited minimum wage increases, maintenance needs and necessary upgrades to golf carts as reasons for the hikes and the requested $30,000 contribution, which the board had approached the council about previously.
    “With part-time help and the minimum wage going up, we’ve been struggling,” he said.
    Council member Brian Akey, who supported the hikes, said it’s been at least two decades since rates were raised.
    The council voted unanimously to increase weekday fees from $12 for nine holes and $14 for 18 to $16 and $22 respectively, and weekend fees from $18 and $20 to $20 and $26. They also agreed to immediately disburse the $30,000.
    
Officials, rec director report
    Wall told the council that he and Brown worked on corrections to the City’s municipal codes. He said that a first draft of the new codes will be ready in a few weeks.
    The City also discussed a resolution to make Holyoke a “sanctuary city” in response to the “red flag” gun bill currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Jared Polis.
    A “sanctuary city” resolution presented March 19 would have declared the City’s support of Holyoke Police Department if it chooses not to enforce the law. Council members tabled the resolution to see how the legal situation develops.
    Phillips County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution declaring its support of Sheriff Thomas Elliott, who said he will not enforce the law.
    Wall stressed at Tuesday’s meeting that the law will not go into effect until 2020 and that the council has time to evaluate its position.
    “We’ve got a long time to look at it, and I’m sure there are going to be a lot of lawsuits that are going to be filed,” he said.
    “I don’t see any reason to be in a rush,” council member John Schneider said. “We might as well let the smoke clear.”
    At the council’s request, Wall said he will draft another “sanctuary city” resolution for its consideration.
    City Clerk Kathy Olofson reported that the City has received first-quarter funds, totaling $8,102.22, from the Colorado Conservation Trust Fund, which is supported by lottery ticket sales in the state.
    She also said City electricians have installed new LED bulbs in the downtown area, near the Peerless Theatre.
    Holyoke Police Chief Doug Bergstrom reported that his department, including code enforcement, handled or generated 248 calls for service from March 14-27. They wrote 10 citations and six reports, and gave out 43 warnings. Code enforcement handled five animal complaints, four dogs at large and 10 ordinance violations.
    Recreation director Victoria Dunker said her department’s youth soccer program has drawn 130 players under 12 volunteer coaches. Northeastern Junior College soccer coaches will also be visiting to host a camp for youths from age 3 through eighth grade.
    
Other business
    In other business at the April 2 meeting, the council:
    — Directed HPD to arrange for the trimming of a bush obstructing visibility at the intersection of Gordon Street and Campbell Avenue.
    — Donated $1,500 to Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department for education and training.
    — Approved a $795 travel request for HPD officer Joseph Marcum to teach a Taser recertification course in Thornton. He will also drive a patrol vehicle to the event.
    — Approved a $552.16 travel request for Kathy Olofson, Tillie Fisbeck and Connie Holtzman to attend the Power Manager 2019 Refresher and Training Course in North Platte, Nebraska.

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