Utility revisits number of trustees

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By David Giuliani

In the summer, members of the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative voted to reduce the number of trustees from 11 to five — an attempt to reduce the utility’s costs.

But that decision may soon be reversed.

The reduction of the Board of Trustees hasn’t even taken effect yet, but the cooperative, which serves thousands of members in the rural areas of Mora and San Miguel counties, is planning another election to give constituents a chance to overturn the previous vote. The voting will take place 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Mora.

The limited hours for voting has one member upset.

“That discriminates because people can’t vote because they’re working,” said John Pintek of Mineral Hill, who added that the election is taking place during the busy Christmas season. “They’ve done everything in the world to sabotage things.”

Pintek submitted the petition to reduce the number of trustees last summer. Trustees countered with alternative proposals.

Pintek’s proposal received more votes than the others, drawing 136 of 338 of the votes cast.

Trustee Chairman Carlos Lovato’s alternative proposal to eliminate trustees’ health insurance, which cost $254,000 over a two-year period, attracted 72 votes. A proposal to do away with two at-large trustee positions, put forth by Trustee Marcelino Ortiz, got 21 votes. And sticking with the status quo drew 94 votes.

Lovato said he wished the bylaws wouldn’t allow elections to repeal previous voters’ decisions so soon afterward.

“If something goes through, there should be a chance to see how it works,” he said.

Asked about the hours for voting, Lovato said that was the request of the petitioners.

Lovato noted that cooperative-wide elections must take place in Mora under the bylaws.

He said he himself would have to get time off to go vote.

“There are hardships that come with this job. We won’t be able to satisfy everyone. We want to accommodate as many as possible,” he said.

Diego Quintana, a trustee from Pecos, said he helped the petitioners with the call for the special election.

“I was doing what the constituents wanted,” he said.

Quintana said his compensation as a trustee with the cooperative amounts to $5,000 to $7,000 a year, plus mileage. And he said he pulls in $15,000 as a trustee with the cooperative’s supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc., but he said he contributes more than half of that money in the form of scholarships to students in Pecos and Mora. He said he is not taking the insurance from the cooperative, saving constituents thousands of dollars.

He said he’s not serving on the boards for the money.

“I hate hearing all of the innuendo. It’s not truthful,” he said.

As for the timing of the election, he said he’s not sure if the weekend would bring any more voters.

“We’re hoping to bring 40 or 50 people from Pecos to vote,” he said, adding that the drive from Pecos to Mora takes an hour and a half.

Quintana said the bylaws since the 1950s have called for elections to take place in Mora.

But he said he would support a change to the bylaws if a constituent petitioned to allow elections in Pecos.