Boulder officials say they still have not made the final decision to move forward with a municipal electric utility, but on Wednesday, the City Council will take its first vote to establish the entity that would eventually run that utility.

City spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said the ordinance that establishes an electric utility is a procedural matter to ensure that Boulder will be able to issue bonds to acquire Xcel Energy's local distribution system in a timely manner should the city move forward.

Both sides anticipate a lengthy court battle over the value of Xcel's system and any stranded costs the city might owe Xcel. Stranded costs are intended to reimburse an energy company for investment in generation capacity that won't be needed anymore.

But once that court process is complete and a judge has issued a ruling on the value, Boulder could have as little as 30 days to come up with money, Huntley said.

The ordinance creating the energy utility is on the consent agenda for Wednesday's meeting. The City Council meeting was moved from its usual Tuesday date due to Passover.

If you go

What: Boulder City Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway

More info: Click here for the agenda

A public hearing and second vote is scheduled for May 6.

The proposed ordinance would create a light and power utility, establish the City Council as the governing body of the utility and create a board that will advise the council.

Huntley said the utility advisory board, which would advise the City Council on rates and how to invest in infrastructure, wouldn't be selected and seated until it's time to set rates and collect revenue.

The city continues to meet with a number of "working groups" made up of community members that are advising the city on various aspects of forming a municipal utility, Huntley said.

City officials said the decision to municipalize won't be made until it's known how much it will cost to acquire Xcel's infrastructure, "following potentially lengthy legal and regulatory processes."

A charter amendment approved by voters last fall caps the amount of debt the city can issue for one-time acquisition costs at $214 million. That amendment was crafted in response to an Xcel-backed measure that would have required voter approval of the total debt amount. Proponents of the municipal utility said that would make it too hard to issue debt in a timely manner, either to buy Xcel's system after a court ruling or to respond to emergencies like last September's floods.

The adoption of the ordinance would not require the city to acquire any systems or equipment. If the city does not complete the municipalization process, the ordinance would be removed from the Boulder Revised Code.

"There is still a lot of information we, as a community, need before deciding whether to move forward with the creation of what we believe could be the electric utility of the future," said Heather Bailey, executive director of energy strategy and electric utility development, in a statement. "However, our attorneys and financial consultants have advised us that creation of a basic entity now is essential to position us well later, should we decide to proceed."

Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said the company has assumed Boulder would move forward with the creation of a municipal utility since the City Council voted to condemn the company's Boulder distribution system and the city sent Xcel formal notice of intent to acquire the system.

"We see this as just one more step in the process," she said.