Watertown, SD -- The “Electric Services In An Annexed Area Study Committee” held the its first meeting last week. The legislative study group is attempting to resolve a long-running controversy between rural and municipal electric utility services who are at odds over service area lines. One of the committee members is State Senator Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown who says this isn’t just a simple game of somebody taking an “etch a sketch” and moving a line. He says there are millions of dollars in investments and thousands of family’s jobs at stake over how electric lines are drawn.
Schoenbeck says it appears the rural electrics don’t want’ to honor the law that has been on the books for years. He says the state’s municipal utilities predate the rural electrics some that went operational as far back as the late 1800’s.
He says the interim committee is stacked with 5 of the 9 members who are co-sponsors of SB 66. Nonetheless, the Watertown lawmaker is confident if the legislation is reintroduced again next year that it will die in the Senate.
The Watertown lawmaker takes exception to claims by rural electrics that the municipal electrics are taking the “low hanging fruit” when it comes to annexing new companies into the community.
He says any legislation restricting the ability of a community to create jobs won’t pass and that it’s nothing more than an attempt for rural electrics to jack up their rates. However, committee member Senator Susan Wismer of Britton sees it differently. She sees some clear choices.
Wismer says the state gave that authority to municipalities in the first place.
Wismer says rural electrics are making the argument about losing potential customers.
Wismer says she hopes the committee can stay focused and not stray into minor issues. The committee will meet again late next month on August 28th.