Utilities commission marks 70th anniversary

Click here to learn more about two new members of the Elk River Municipal Utilities Commission.

Panel oversees electric, water service

by Joni Astrup
Associate Editor
Seventy years ago, the Elk River Municipal Utilities Commission was formed.
The commission’s regular meeting on Tuesday, July 11, fell on the exact date of the 70th anniversary. Elk River Municipal Utilities marked the occasion with cake and a reading of the 1947 resolution creating the commission by Elk River Mayor John Dietz, who chairs the five-member panel.

The original minutes from the July 11, 1947, Elk River Village Council meeting were handwritten. They record the formation of what is now the Elk River Municipal Utilities Commission. Photo courtesy of Elk River Municipal Utilities

“We spend a lot of time looking forward and working on big things for the future,” Troy Adams, Elk River Municipal Utilities general manager, told the commission. “This is a moment to look backwards and appreciate all that we have done. I just want to say I appreciate all that you have done over the years.”
Elk River Municipal Utilities dates back to 1915, when a private business person secured financing to start Elk River Power and Light, according to Adams. This business was purchased by the village of Elk River in 1945, and the operation was directly overseen by the council.
That changed in 1947, when the council accepted the resignation of Ward Holsbo, the utility’s superintendent.
“The loss of his institutional knowledge and the growing complexity of the business contributed to the council evaluation of their responsibility to oversee the operation,” Adams wrote in a memo to the utilities commission. “Shortly thereafter on July 11, 1947, the council created through statutory authority the Water, Light, Power and Building Commission, which is now known as the ERMU Commission. The complexities of the electric industry have continued to grow since 1947.”

Members of the Elk River Municipal Utilities Commission are, left to right: Mayor John Dietz, Daryl Thompson, Mary Stewart, Council Member Matt Westgaard and Al Nadeau. Photo courtesy of Elk River Municipal Utilities

Today, ERMU provides electricity to more than 11,000 customers in not just Elk River but parts of Otsego, Dayton and Big Lake. ERMU’s water distribution system supplies water to approximately 5,000 customers. The utility also provides billing services for all city services.
ERMU’s annual budget is $40 million.
The utilities commission consists of three citizen representatives and two City Council representatives.
The current commission is made up of Dietz, Vice Chair Daryl Thompson, Al Nadeau, Mary Stewart and Matt Westgaard, who is an Elk River City Council member. Commissioners are appointed by the City Council and serve staggered three-year terms.
In comments during the 70th anniversary meeting, Adams said the work of the current commissioners and those who preceded them often goes unrecognized by the public.
“You have been involved in some very big decisions over the years, since 1947, that have impacted the city pretty significantly,” Adams said.
The commission meets at 3:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Elk River Municipal Utilities office at 13069 Orono Parkway. Meetings are open to the public. Agendas, commission meeting packets and approved meeting minutes are posted at www.elkriverutilities.com.