St. Anthony joins Suburban Rate Authority

The St. Anthony city council voted to join the Suburban Rate Authority (SRA) with a unanimous 4-0 vote at its June 24 meeting.

The (SRA) is a joint powers organization under Minnesota statutes, a collection of suburban cities that negotiates with utility franchises and advocates for lower rates for utility customers. It’s been around for more than 50 years.

“We’ve been beneficiaries of [the SRA] since 1963 and it’s probably time that we pay our fair share,” St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust said.

Cities are given votes in the SRA based upon population. One vote is given for every 5,000 residents, meaning St. Anthony will be given two votes. The SRA charges $400, annually for each vote, therefore the city will pay $800 per year for its membership in the authority, a price that Faust said was worth it for “a seat at the table.”

James Strommen, a utilities and construction lawyer with Kennedy and Graven and general council to the SRA, addressed the meeting endorsing the SRA, which he called an “active watch dog for suburbs and their rate payers,” adding that the authority represents nearly 900,000 metro area residents.

“I think our member cities benefit from the expertise [we’ve] developed,” Strommen said.

According to a report prepared by the SRA for St. Anthony, the authority was originally formed to better negotiate franchises with the Minneapolis Gas Company (later Minnegasco and CenterPoint Energy). In 1974, the state enacted the Public Utilities Act, which put gas and electric utilities under state regulation, except in the case of cooperative electric associations and municipal utilities.

Since then, the SRA has dealt with issues pertaining to gas, electric and telephone rates, and legislative activity within the Public Utilities Commission. The authority also deals with right of way management and cellular phone towers.

With St. Anthony’s membership, the SRA now has 29 member cities, including Bloomington, Burnsville, Edina, Fridley, Maplewood, Plymouth, Roseville, Shoreview and Spring Lake Park.

Strommen explained that St. Anthony was to receive $2,500 in pumping station power outage credits from earlier this month from Xcel Energy.

Faust remarked that $2,500 easily offsets the $800 membership fee.

“I already feel better,” he said.

— Mike Munzenrider

 

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