consultants are sandburs

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Connecting the dots, perhaps well, perhaps wrongly. What in the world is Connexus up to, pitching the singular idea of "a data center" in Ramsey? Why should our town's citizens pay them one single infrastructure cent or grant one single TIF penny if bad Great River Energy decision making with overcapacity is at the heart of things? They do have a coal generated power dilemma in North Dakota. We pay Connexus more than enough, in rates set by them for the power we need and use. To succeed, any "data center" plan must favor Ramsey's fisc more than that of Connexus or Great River to have any community appeal.

Am I the only one smelling a rat? A rat that smells strangely like sulfur and mercury coal stack emissions, blowing in with all the winter snow from North Dakota?

For background, see Strib a year and a half ago, here (source of the below screen capture); and Strib again, days ago, here.

click image to enlarge

In its opening, that second Strib item reports:

Regulators reject Great River Energy's business plan

Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
Updated: July 17, 2013 - 9:10 PM

Regulators also ordered the Minnesota power company to supply more information on costs.


In an unprecedented rebuke to a major electric utility, Minnesota regulators on Wednesday rejected as inadequate a long-term business plan offered by the state’s second-largest power company, Great River Energy.

In a 3-2 decision, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) sided with environmental groups and some major customers who accused the utility of making bad investments in new fossil fuel power plants that helped drive up its rates 58 percent over seven years.

Regulators also ordered the Maple Grove-based nonprofit wholesale power cooperative to report next year on its environmental costs, including costs for greenhouse gases, and to analyze the economic benefits of conservation vs. retaining power plants, including older coal-burning units.

“We are hoping that this leads the GRE board to more closely scrutinize the cost and expense side of its business,” said Minneapolis attorney David Aafedt, representing two ethanol producers who had complained to the PUC about Great River’s electric rates and investments.

Laureen Ross McCalib, resource planning manager for Great River, said she was disappointed by the commission’s decision, but that the utility would “go back to the office and take the commission’s concerns very deeply to heart.”

The rejection is the latest case of Great River Energy’s business decisions being called into question. In June, Elk River Municipal Utilities, which long has relied on Great River to generate its electricity, said it had signed a deal to purchase less-expensive power from a municipal power agency.

Wow. Jilted by Elk River, and by the PUC. Gotta, gotta find a chump.

Enter Ramsey. Enter "a data center." Or is that too simplistic a conclusion; one too quickly formed?

Once a chump always a chump, Great River and Connexus must be emailing back and forth.

Or not. That is a fact yet to be made public. This idea was born, where presumably Maple Grove, where Great River is headquartered, did not want "a data center," since Great River must know that charity begins at home.

I will be asking city officials to be appointed to the "data center" task force. I believe I would bring an open but skeptical mind to the process. Wish me luck on being appointed. With this council it might happen.

More background on Great River's capacity planning, and the great "data center" proposal from Connexus that may/may not be attached; see: MPR, here (2-1/2 years ago), here (Nov 2011), here (Apr 2012), here (New Year's Eve, 2011), and here (days ago). For balance, Great River Energy on the web, here and here.

Key to any analysis, who pays what, when, to make "a data center" a reality under the Great River - Connexus suggestion, and what's in it for Ramsey in general, for Ben Dover and his fellow citizens apart from the immediate neighbors, if this proposal were to come to fruition, ribbon cutting, groundbreaking and all? (Also, am I wrong speculating this great "data center" idea might have Jim Gromberg's fingerprints on it? Surely in any event a duly diligent task force should hope to ask Gromberg's feelings, given the appeal of his resume).

So -- Please, City of Ramsey, grant me a seat on that Patrick Brama led "data center" task force. I would like having the chance to ask trenchant questions and to read interesting documents and email threads, to see what's what, and to help city officials and those neighboring the potential "data center" site to best understand the dimensions at play. It would, as I understand things, be a fact-finding operation with delegated authority to form its own ways and means, but with ultimate decision authority resting with those elected to protect citizen interests.

I think former Ramsey council member Terry Hendriksen, if he'd accept a role, would also be a good person to serve. My experience has been that he is good at seeing the big picture, but also at ferreting out and cogently presenting relevant factual detail. And as former owner-operator of Enterprise Communications in Anoka County, he is versed in areas that might prove helpful in background. If some "consultant" is hired by Ramsey, Hendriksen would be well connected enough to objectively assess consultant bona fides.

Hendriksen has been around the block to the extent he'd not be flim-flammed by any advocatorial smoke-and-mirrors gaming, which also would favor his appointment, should he want to serve. Perhaps Pattiann Kurak for the panel too, since she and Hendriksen would yield a balanced point-counterpoint pair, and the Kurak home in Ramsey is near to the former city hall. I would enjoy serving on such a panel with Ms. Kurak, were she to prove interested.

___________UPDATE___________
With the proposed project in Ward 1, and an election to be held within about a week; all residents, especially Ward 1 voters neighboring the proposed project, are urged to contact the two candidates to sound them out on this current issue. If you intend to vote, please in fairness to all of us, be an informed voter.

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