Has local utility board gone haywire?

By: Suzanne Penegor and Gienie Assink

Rule #1: It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money,
especially when the money spent comes from taxpayers. Or in this instance, ratepayers.

Local activist Sang Suynh has been attending EWEB (Eugene Water and Electric Board) meetings regularly as a concerned Eugene citizen following a 2 year debate of whether to relocate EWEB offices. As Suynh puts it, ratepayers will end up footing the bill for new office buildings which he feels are unnecessary at a time when EWEB finds itself in a 55 percent debt to asset ratio.

As a ratepayer, Suynh is concerned that utility rates in Eugene will go up as much as 10 percent a year for 4 years if the Eugene City Council approves such a plan. He is equally concerned that EWEB and city officials will try to enact existing plans and relocate the building without voter approval–incurring additional municipal debt by issuing bonds to pay for it.

Suynh compared the debt situation that EWEB management has incurred to the Springfield Utility Board, another local utility company who has no debt whatsoever. Suynh says this is a matter of poor management on the part of EWEB, and in particular, by its general manager. He said much of the current debt has been incurred since GM Randy Bergren has been heading EWEB.

Suynh stated the EWEB board is unwilling to answer questions by the public or by ratepayers such as himself, so he is taking is concerns on the road, hoping to get support for an initiative
petition if necessary and put any bonds to pay for a new EWEB office building before Eugene voters. The proposed building has been estimated to cost tax payers a total of $83 million, he said.

Suynh said EWEB owns a considerable amount of land in the Eugene area and if the offices were relocated, the city has expressed an interest in the land where the offices are currently””for plans to build a public park.

Suynh said not much interest has been shown by the EWEB board to consider renovating the existing EWEB office building. Parts of the EWEB offices were built in the 1940s, additions were built in the 1980s.

Suynh encouraged other concerned Eugene residents to attend the EWEB board meetings for more information and write letters to the editor in local newspapers to educate the public on the current debate and what voters may face in the upcoming months.

To find out more about this issue please click on EWEB Debate to hear the audio recording of this discussion through the Rubicon Society website.

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Posted by at 05:52 | Posted in Measure 37 | 11 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    This is the best reason to “get off the grid”. These people are competely nuts.
    They should be ashamed, but are too busy dreaming of what color carpet they want in their new offices.
    What a sad, pathetic bunch of morons.
    They wouldn’t last a day in the private sector.

    • rural resident

      Public sector entities like EWEB are the only places where a “sad, pathetic bunch of morons” “are too busy dreaming of what color carpet they want in their new offices?”

      I hate to burst your bubble (or get in the way of another of your rants), but this happens all the time in the private sector. Does the name Dennis Kozlowski ring a bell ($6,000 shower curtains, expensive art works, etc.)? The only difference between DK and thousands of other execs is that his spending was so far over the top and things like the shower curtain led to lots of publicity that he ended up in jail. But then, it’s OK when a private sector firm wastes money on $100 a square yard carpeting, $1000 desk sets, and mahogany furniture that costs more than the GDP of a small nation — because they’re able to raise the price the price of products to cover it, wasting customers’ money instead of taxpayer funds.

      Managers in both the public and private sectors should spend only what is necessary to get the job done. Waste in either arena is out of place.

      (You’re right, Jerry, about their not being able to last a day in the private sector. The execs at EWEB probably aren’t audacious enough.)

      • Jerry

        It is perfectly OK for the private sector to waste money if that is what they chose to do. It is their money. If they raise prices to pay for the “waste” as you call it, then someone else will undercut them and they will lose business.
        Remember, too, although you may not be able to comprehend this, the people they bought all the expensive stuff from were helped, which helped the overall economy.
        There is nothing audacious whatsoever with someone wasting their own money.
        However, it certainly is audacious to waste money in the public sector, as it is NOT their money.

    • Sid Leiken

      Jerry

      I don’t live in Eugene so I have not followed this very close but I do know that EWEB has board members who are very successful in the private sector.

  • Britt Storkson

    Since the politicos can’t shake money out of the taxpayers as easily anymore monopoly utilities have become the new revenue generating source. The “Tax and Spend” crowd doesn’t go away…They just go somewhere else. It’s perfectly legal for the utility to operate at “X” amount of dollars while charging something like 5X what it costs to deliver the power. They can spend the extra money anywhere they want.
    You should consider yourself lucky that you are dealing with a public utility because at lesst you have a few rights.
    Here in The Dalles we are vicitimized by an Electric Co-operative and have no rights whatsoever. Wasco Electric Co-op sues people to get land on which to put their power lines rather than negotiate with the landowner so the lawyer can make more money. The state statute (ORS62) gives the “stockholders” or supposed owners no rights whatsoever in that we cannot attend board meetings, we cannot get any information at all about the Co-op (like what the general manager makes in salary and benefits) and the board as threatened to sue anybody who questions anything they do. It’s nearly impossible to get a seat on that board if they don’t want you there because the Co-op holds their own elections and counts their own votes.
    We don’t need to get off grid. We need accountability.

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