The debate over municipalization and Boulder's energy programs provided fodder for April Fool's Day pranksters, with a fake news release touting a new city energy initiative involving hamster wheels and a letter with Xcel letterhead urging municipal utility opponents to cut power to supporters.
"The Boulder City Council has launched an energy initiative to harness energy from local schoolchildren's guinea pig and hamster wheels," said the news release, which was sent to the councilwide email address and local media. "It is estimated that there are 3,500 hamster wheels in Boulder. This could be an estimated 1 kilowatt of free electricity per family per year."
The news release cited the example of a 10-year-old girl who got enough electricity from her guinea pig to power her bedroom during homework hours and said the city would distribute generators and wiring kits to all families with hamsters and guinea pigs.
The letter purporting to be from Xcel Energy that appeared in some Mapleton Hill mailboxes Monday morning was less whimsical. It said that Xcel would cut down trees as small as 3 feet in the vicinity of utility equipment "as we go about pulling out our equipment and sending it back to Minneapolis." It also said that the company would bill Boulder residents for the cost of cutting down their trees.
The letter also encouraged people who voted against municipalization to go to their neighbors' power boxes and shut off their electricity.
"When they come to you asking if 'all the power is out in the neighborhood,' say to them, 'No, but yours is and that is what will probably be happening a lot if the city's plan to municipalize utilities goes through,'" the letter says. "This will help them understand how important it is to make good decisions concerning their energy future."
The letter concludes by saying how much Xcel values its Boulder customers and promising 10 days' notice before cutting off power to the city.
Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said company officials had not had any calls about the letter, unlike with a similar one last year, and the first she had heard of it was when a Camera reporter called for comment.
"We haven't given much thought to it because it's obviously a fake," she said. "We hope that our customers recognize it as such. Obviously, we don't condone this at all."
Aguayo added that Xcel is always open to dialogue on issues of concern to Boulder residents and businesses, but she declined to speculate on what the letter might say about how Xcel is viewed by the public.
"If our customers want to have a dialogue with us, we have an open door," she said.
Boulder spokeswoman Sarah Huntley thanked the hamster prankster for being "so obvious."
"From the perspective of the city, this was obviously an April Fool's joke," she said. "We believe the people in the public will see it for what it is."
Huntley also declined to speculate on the significance of the prank.
"I think people just like to have some fun," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.