SPU meeting

Shakopee city officials and the city’s separate water and electric utility have long been at odds over transparency issues.

District 55A Rep. Brad Tabke, DFL-Shakopee, introduced a bill May 11 that would allow the Shakopee City Council to dissolve the Shakopee Public Utilities Commission with a simple majority vote, although the bill won’t receive any hearings before it expires for the 2020 session.

Tabke said he introduced this bill because he wanted to provide a roadmap “if the City of Shakopee and the Shakopee Public Utilities are unable to create a positive working relationship with keeping both the cost-effective delivery of services and Shakopee residents in mind.”

On April 9, Tabke and Shakopee City Administrator Bill Reynolds sent a letter to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and State Auditor Julia Blaha claiming Crooks is earning more than the state salary cap allows, along with two other allegations centering around transparency. The auditor’s office wrote in a response that Crooks’ salary was — by Blaha’s interpretation — above the cap.

“More often than not, Shakopee Public Utilities does not always operate in the best interests of our community,” an email update from Tabke’s office said May 11.

In 1951, the Shakopee City Council barely passed a measure to divorce itself from utility oversight. The intention was to keep utility prices out of city politics, and also to lessen the burden on the growing city.

But lately, discussion has grown from murmurs to public discourse about what it might take to bring the utility back under the city’s oversight. The discussions have come after years of conflict between the two entities, who have failed to meet publicly about their issues.

The city has cried foul against the utility for lack of transparency — the latest of issues drawing attention to Crooks’ salary. SPU Commissioner Mathew Meyer said in an interview earlier this month that he worries if the city brought the utility back under its umbrella, the line between politics and utility prices would dissolve.

In order for Tabke’s SPUC bill to receive a hearing by the House and Senate, it must be reintroduced in the 2021 session by the winner of the November election.

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.