Berlin To Disband Utilities Commission

Berlin To Disband Utilities Commission

Travis Brown
Staff Writer

BERLIN — The Berlin Mayor and Council’s decision to disband the Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC) has not been well received by all of those involved.

“I am disappointed with the apparent decision of Mayor and Council to ‘disband’ the BUC,” Erik Quisgard, the commission’s current president, told The Dispatch.

According to a press release issued by the town, the Mayor and Council recently came to the conclusion that a growing divide between it and BUC on town utilities has reached the point where having the commission is causing more conflict than resolution.

“The BUC was established by the Mayor and Council,” said Mayor Gee Williams, “but time has shown that Berlin’s utilities cannot serve two masters.”

Williams went on to point out that changes in the field have had a noticeable effect on the equation.

“During the past 14 years, there has been much change in both the economic and regulatory environment under which Berlin’s utilities operate,” said Williams.

The Mayor and Council expressed the opinion there were inherent conflicts between the BUC and the town administration that go back well past the term of service of any current members in either group. It was suggested that the two organizations have reached a point where they could almost be considered in competition.

With Berlin working to negotiate a new electric contract this year, Williams asserted that disbanding the BUC would be the simplest way to achieve a more fluid structure.

“We sincerely feel this decision recognizes the economic and regulatory environments under which Berlin’s utilities now operate and will result in the most efficient and manageable system for their operation, now and in the foreseeable future,” the mayor said.

Quisgard, however, said the BUC did not actively seek to compete with the council.

“The volunteers I have served with on the BUC have always shared the simple goal of providing town ratepayers and taxpayers the cheapest and best possible utility services,” said Quisgard. “If our work or recommendations (or that of those before us) have been at odds with the strategies and priorities of the Mayor and Council it is because those strategies and priorities have not always been shared with the BUC.”

Quisgard said more “volunteer community involvement” would benefit the town, not less.

Williams made sure to point out that the disbanding was in no way targeted at members of the BUC and asserted that the town was grateful for the community input.

“This decision should in no way be a reflection on the dedication of any current or former BUC member,” he said. “The Mayor and Council appreciate the willingness of each member to serve on the BUC and thank them for their service.”