Norwich City Council to create ratepayer representative position on CMEEC board

Norwich – The City Council will hold a public hearing Nov. 20 on a proposed ordinance to create the new state-mandated utility residential or commercial ratepayer appointee to the board of directors of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative.

The position was created in a state law designed to bring more outside oversight of the regional utilities cooperative, owned by six municipally owned utilities in the state, in the wake of a controversy over the cooperative’s practice of hosting trips to the Kentucky Derby for four years using revenue generated by the cooperative.

Five Norwich officials, four Norwich Public Utilities leaders, General Manager John Bilda, Division Manager Steve Sinko and former Norwich utilities commission Chairwoman Dee Boisclair and Vice Chairman Robert Groner, and Mayor Deberey Hinchey, all faced ethics violation findings for participating in the 2016 trip.

The council will hold a hearing at the Nov. 20 meeting following general public comment, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The ordinance would take effect 10 days after approval, and the position would become effective Dec. 1.

The state law also calls for five years of forensic audits of CMEEC’s finances and requires it to provide financial reports, including a list of CMEEC executive personnel and their salaries, to the legislative Energy and Technology Committee.

The Norwich City Council drew heavily from language in the new law spelling out the criteria for the residential or commercial ratepayer position – that the person be a resident or business owner in Norwich, not work for either NPU, the city, any other CMEEC member utility and their host municipalities or for CMEEC itself.

The council set a two-year term for the position, with eligibility for reappointments. CMEEC board members receive $600 per regular meeting from the cooperative and lesser amounts for participation by phone or for committee meetings. The proposed ordinance specifies that CMEEC would pay the stipend to the Norwich ratepayer representative.

The council’s Appointments/Reappointments Committee interviewed two applicants for the position last week, and plan another interview session on Thursday.

Council President Pro Tempore Peter Nystrom, a member of the appointments committee, said one of the two applicants withdrew after learning the technical nature of the cooperative’s business.

Applications remain “open until filled.”

Alderwoman Stacy Gould said the appointment could be made either at the Nov. 20 meeting if the ordinance is approved or at the Dec. 4 meeting, the final meeting of the current council. The new City Council elected Tuesday will be sworn in on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

c.bessette@theday.com

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