ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello released a statement Wednesday saying he does not support a proposal to study the impact of creating a public utility in the City of Rochester.
Rochester City Council approved the study Tuesday evening. It would require the city and county to reach an inter-municipal funding agreement.
“Creating a public utility is an extremely complex issue that is beyond the scope of Monroe County,” Bello said in his statement Wednesday. “I do not feel spending $1 million county taxpayer dollars on such a public utility study is warranted.”
Bello said any movement toward creating a public utility “could have billions of dollars of implications for taxpayers.” He said those implications include the potential loss of $100 million in annual tax dollars paid by RG&E.
The push for a public utility comes amid more than a year of customer service and billing issues residents have reported in dealing with RG&E. Local lawmakers also received hundreds of complaints after RG&E proposed rate hikes in March.
RG&E claims the rate hikes and its recent recruitment efforts will lead to service improvements.
“I’ve long been in favor of an implementation study to see if something like this is even possible,” said Democrat Legislator Rachel Barnhart. She said RG&E lost the confidence of customers.
“We owe it to the community, to at least get the facts and the data that we need to have an informed discussion about this,” she said.
Mark Assini — a Republican candidate for County Executive– said he doesn’t disagree with Bello’s decision. If implemented, he said RG&E would have to be bought out, in the billions of dollars in assets.
“For the county to run this, they have no experience. They’d have to come up with brand-new staff. This could be a disaster,” said Assini.
Like Bello and Barnhart, he said the frustrations with RG&E need to be heard.
“I think RG&E can straighten things around, but they need a push. They have not been responsible,” said Assini.
Barnhart is not sure if everything Bello listed is accurate, and would like to have more of a discussion about it. She said Bello will not have the final word in this.
“If we can get enough votes on the legislature, we can have a say on this study as well. And there are elections taking place this year,” she said adding the votes in the Legislature could be there in the future.
Full statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello
RG&E must improve their service, billing and customer issues. I have advocated for that improvement by opposing the RG&E rate increase directly with the Public Service Commission. I have also met several times with the new local management and with the CEO of AVANGRID to address the legitimate concerns of Monroe County residents. However, creating a public utility is an extremely complex issue that is beyond the scope of Monroe County. It could have billions of dollars of implications for taxpayers.
- RGE is the largest property tax payer in the county, contributing annual taxes north of $100 million dollars to the county, city, towns, villages and school districts.
- The company has $4 billion in assets that would need to be acquired, in addition to obligations for maintenance, repairs, environmental cleanups and operations of multiple gas plants and the electric power infrastructure.
- RGE spans 9 counties from here to the Pennsylvania border, requiring buy-in from all municipal governments in the current RGE service area in order to make any changes.
For the reasons stated, I do not feel spending $1 million county taxpayer dollars on such a public utility study is warranted.