Mayor outlines plan that saves Energy City, but discontinues Energy Expo

Click here to read about a petition urging the Elk River City Council to save Energy City.

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Elk River Mayor John Dietz proposed a combination of cuts and revenue from other sources that would save the Energy City program but eliminate the annual Energy Expo as a stand-alone event.

Elk River was designated Energy City in 1996.

Energy City’s proposed budget for 2012 is $56,800, but the program has been threatened by budget cuts.
Dietz explained his latest proposal during a council work session Monday, Oct. 3.
Council members took no action on it that night, but discussion of Energy City is expected to surface again, as the council has until December to finalize the 2012 budget.
Here are the details of the mayor’s proposal.
Included in the $56,800 proposed Energy City budget is $36,000 in staff time. Dietz said approximately $5,000 of that is for Project Conserve and most of the remaining $31,000 is for the Energy Expo.
He would fund the $5,000 for Project Conserve from the council’s contingency.
Dietz suggested discontinuing the Energy Expo and having an “energy wing” at the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo instead. Dietz said that would increase visibility for the vendors because the Business Expo draws a larger crowd. Because it is a chamber event, it wouldn’t involve city staff time and allow the city to reduce the city’s environmental staff hours and save about $30,000, he said.
In addition, Dietz proposed to fund $10,000 of the Energy City budget from an annual contribution Elk River Municipal Utilities makes to the city.
He also would ask three entities — Connexus Energy, Great River Energy and CenterPoint Energy — to pay $3,500 each to fund the rest of the program. All three are involved in Energy City and have representatives on the Elk River Energy City Commission.
If all his recommendations are implemented, Dietz said it would make Energy City “cost neutral” to the city. He said the suggestions are a compilation of ideas presented to him since the City Council met jointly with the Energy City Commission on Sept. 19.
Prior to that, on Sept. 6, Dietz had outlined a budget-balancing plan that called for cutting the Energy City program but salvaging Project Conserve and having it managed by Elk River Municipal Utilities, with $5,000 in funding coming from the city.

About Energy City
•Elk River was named Energy City in 1996.
•The city has been active on a number of fronts including sponsoring an annual Energy Expo and launching the Project Conserve program, which teaches people how to conserve electricity, water, gasoline and heating fuel and reduce garbage.
•Elk River is also home to a number of energy projects such as a wind turbine along Highway 169 and a plant at the Elk River Landfill where gas produced by decomposing garbage is used to generate electricity. Those projects and others are popular with international visitors who tour Elk River’s energy sites.