The Boulder Chamber of Commerce on Monday officially recommended that the city ask voters again if they support municipalization before any final decisions are made.
John Tayer, president of the Boulder Chamber, said Boulder residents need the opportunity to vote once the costs of the city purchasing the Xcel electrical distribution system are better known.
"We certainly recognize the value of moving toward alternative energy opportunities, but we want to balance that with appropriate attention to costs and risks," he said. "We think it's appropriate for the public to have a voice in the final decision to pursue the bonds."
The Boulder City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night on whether to enter the next stage of the municipalization process, but the vote won't be a final decision in the process.
A yes vote, which many observers expect, would mean the city continues its analysis of the feasibility of municipalization -- including hiring a third-party, independent consultant to review its previous analysis -- and begins preparing for condemnation proceedings against Xcel Energy.
The decision in August of whether to file condemnation proceedings against Xcel's distribution system within Boulder and nearby county areas served by the same infrastructure will be a significant one.
"It is important for council, and the community, to understand that making the decision to proceed with condemnation is deciding to municipalize unless the financial requirements outlined in the Charter cannot be met," city officials said in a memo to the City Council. "To initiate condemnation, council must be ready to form the utility and issue bonds to pay what it offers Xcel for the property to be acquired, or if Xcel rejects that offer, what the court determines is the value of the property identified by the city."
The memo said that the city could only change course if it was determined that the city couldn't meet the financial metrics in the city charter, which require that Boulder charge rates comparable to Xcel's. The city may be on the hook for some costs if it abandons municipalization at that point, the memo said.
Given those constraints, Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said, a new community vote would need to come before the city enters condemnation proceedings -- and before the final costs are established.
"The chamber's recommendation represents an apparent lack of understanding about the legal process," she said.
Huntley said it's also important to keep in mind that the two ballot measures approved in November 2011 -- one raising the utility occupation tax to pay for research into municipalization and the other allowing the City Council to create a utility -- authorized the City Council to issue bonds as long as certain conditions are met.
"Legally speaking, there is no additional vote necessary," she said. "We're doing the due diligence to determine if the criteria can be met and creating a local utility is the best way to achieve our goals."