A changing of the guard at Pueblo’s much-unloved public utility
Author: Dan Njegomir - September 7, 2017 - Updated: September 7, 2017
The local face of Rapid City, S.D.-based Black Hills Energy in Pueblo, company Vice President Christopher Burke, is out of the picture and has left the company. The reason? Not clear, but the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper, who brings us the news of Burke’s departure, suggests a likely basis for the reshuffling with this dry observation:
The utility has had a difficult relationship with Pueblo ratepayers.
To say the least. As Roper sums it up:
The utility has been the target of sharp criticism in the Pueblo community over rate increases as well as its reconnect policy for low-income people who can’t pay their bills and lose service.
The tense relationship has been become a full-blown political issue in recent years, stirring heated debate on the state Public Utilities Commission and prompting legislation by Pueblo’s delegation to the state legislature.
So fed up are civic leaders with Black Hills — which has provided most of the Steel City’s power since it acquired the previous electric provider, Aquila, in 2008 — that the City Council has talked of ending the city’s franchise agreement with with the investor-owned, state-regulated utility in 2020. That would be a decade earlier than the agreement is scheduled to expire.
Burke’s replacement to oversee the company’s southern Colorado operation is company veteran Vance Crocker. Will it lead to substantive changes, or is it just PR? Either way, Black Hills seems to be on the bubble.