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David Ross: Participate in the future of Duluth's public utilities now

The management and operation of the city of Duluth's public utilities (water, natural gas and sanitary sewer) will soon change. If you own property in Duluth, you will feel the financial impact of this change -- yet few Duluthians appear to be pa...

The management and operation of the city of Duluth's public utilities (water, natural gas and sanitary sewer) will soon change. If you own property in Duluth, you will feel the financial impact of this change -- yet few Duluthians appear to be paying attention to this issue. Fortunately, there is one last opportunity to do so and to have your voice heard.

The change will occur Monday evening when the Duluth City Council is expected to approve an ordinance creating the Duluth Public Utilities Commission. The new commission will be authorized to establish the various utility rates. The majority of city councilors have found that the management and operation of the city's water, natural gas and sanitary sewer has become more complex. They believe the city would benefit from the focused attention on utilities that can be provided by the Duluth Public Utilities Commission. I agree.

Before a proposed ordinance can be voted on by the council, it must be publicly read at two city council meetings. It is within these two meetings that community members are afforded an opportunity to provide public comment in response to the proposed ordinance. The first reading of this proposed ordinance occurred two weeks ago at the March 29 city council meeting. I attended the council meeting and was the one community member who gave testimony relative to the potential of a public utilities commission. I shared the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce's appeal to have the establishment of public utility rates be the result of a transparent, disciplined and responsible process that seeks to keep the utility rates at their lowest possible cost to consumers.

The city's utility rates have increased exponentially in recent years. They have done so without rate payers being assured the increases were the result of a transparent, disciplined and responsible process that strove to keep the rates as low as possible. The Chamber will applaud any initiative that brings additional structure and accountability to the rate-setting process.

We also will appreciate being assured that subsequent rate increases will be reinvested in utilities-infrastructure improvements.

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It appears the establishment of a Public Utilities Commission is a step in the right direction.

Our final opportunity to have our voice heard on this issue is at the city council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the third floor council chambers of City Hall. Council meetings are broadcast live on KUMD (103.3 FM) and on Public Access Community Television.

You can obtain a copy of the meeting agenda and the ordinance by accessing the city of Duluth's Web site at www.duluthmn.gov .

Home and building owners will be directly impacted by how well the city's public utilities are managed.

The cost of these utilities will be, in part, determined by the commission. The Chamber will continue to closely evaluate and monitor this initiative.

I encourage you to do the same.

Contact Chamber President David Ross at 740-3751 or dross@duluthchamber.com .

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