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Here are the nine members of the newly-formed Municipal Electric Utility Task Force

Posted: Tue, Dec 8, 2020 2:38 PM

(Analysis by's Paul Scott):

In the discussion Monday night about who should be appointed to the Municipal Electric Utility Task Force, city council member Andy Carlson framed the question accurately: Should people be appointed who are passionate about a municipal electric utility, or should people be appointed who are impartial?

The listing of the nine members appointed Monday night shows the Decorah City council--by a 6-1 vote--selected people who are passionate about forming an MEU in Decorah.

Three of the task force members serve on the Winneshiek Energy District.  One other task force member did some volunteer work for the 2018 MEU referendum.  A fifth member donated to the Decorah Power group which pushed for approval of the 2018 MEU referendum. 

There was also a long discussion about whether people who live outside of the Decorah city limits should be allowed to serve on the Task Force.  Mayor Lorraine Borowski said she is "concerned about the number of people outside the city limits who are on that list (of Task Force members)."  However, City Council member Emily Neal argued that a Municipal Electric Utility, if approved, would serve current Alliant Energy customers living outside the city limits.  However, one of the Task Force appointees not only doesn't live within the Decorah city limits, but runs a farm in Allamakee County.

Mayor Borowski said Monday night she was concerned that no one with practical experience working for or with an electric utility was on the list of nine nominees.  She said two people with such experience were suggested as members.  Sustainability Commission Chair Jim Martin-Schramm said those people would be consulted as experts, but weren't considered as Task Force members.

In the end, the Decorah City Council members felt that the Task Force would only give the city council input and would not be making any decisions.  City council member Ross Hadley told the meeting, "We're overthinking this."  When the question was put to a vote, only Decorah City Council member Randy Schissel voted against approving the nominees.

Three Task Force members from Winneshiek Energy District
--WED Executive Director Andy Johnson
--WED Board members Larry Grimstad and Kristine Jepsen

Four  Task Force members who supported the 2018 MEU campaign
--According to the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board's 2018 Campaign Financing Report, contributions to the "Vote Yes" group were made by Karen McLean, Larry Grimstad and Andy Johnson
--Task Force member Carly Foster, a Luther College professor, did some volunteer work for the 2018 "Vote Yes" campaign

Three Task Force members who live outside Decorah City Limits
--Kristine Jepsen lives in Allamakee County, where, according to the Winneshiek Energy District website, "For 15 years, she ran farm-based businesses in Allamakee County."
--Andy Johnson lives in Glenwood Township
--Larry Grimstad lives just outside the Decorah city limits--by only two lots--but, technically, in Decorah Township, not within the City of Decorah

Four Task Force members who do not seem to have direct ties:
--Jim Beeghly is a retired Iowa Court of Appeals judge
--Pete Espinosa is the owner of Pulpit Rock Brewery
--Doug Hamilton is Director of Supply at Deco Products
--Mark Lovelace is a managing partner at A&J Petersburg