Feasibility of public ownership of Crown Hydro’s power plant project is the subject of a staff report by Don Siggelkow and Judd Rietkerk to be presented at the Park Board meeting on August 5, 2009, at Elliot Park Recreation Center, 1000 E. 14th Street. Because the meeting is offsite, it will not be televised.

The MPRB has voted Crown Hydro down twice. Now Crown Hydro is coming back to the Board with another proposal: one that resembles a corporate buyout. Crown Hydro is proposing now that the Park Board buy them out and assume ownership of the power plant. In other words, the Park Board would be in the utility business.

Siggelkow says one of the positive aspects of the project would be that it would promote the ability of the Park Board “to get off the grid.” But the Park Board doesn’t get the electricity generated; Xcel does. So how does that help the Park Board “get off the grid”?

The staff report will be presented during the Planning Committee, which is chaired by Bob Fine who has been one of three park board commissioners who have been staunch supporters of the Crown Hydro project. The committee chairman has control over what issues are placed on his committee agenda. So it was natural that Crown would have an easy entre back onto the Park Board’s agenda via Bob’s Planning Committee.

It is interesting to note that the staff person driving this idea is General Manager Don Siggelkow, whose track record is not perfect. Two of his major “enterprise” projects (the 201 Building at Fort Snelling and the Fuji-ya/The Wave on the river) were costly failures that became entangled in expensive litigation. In fact, after standing empty for the entire eight years of Park Board ownership, the sale of the 201 Building was finally completed on June 24, 2009. With all the expenses accrued during the eight years the MPRB owned the 201 Building, the MPRB, at best, broke even. The Wave is still in litigation. Enterprise projects are supposed to make money for the Park Board, not cost money.

So Siggelkow is now preparing to explore the feasibility of public ownership of a power plant by the Park Board. But in his outline, there is no mention about how the Park Board would pay for it or if buying and owning a power plant is even economically feasible for the Park Board.

The Planning Committee follows the regular meeting, which begins at 5:00 p.m. For more information, click on the Park Board’s website

Arlene Fried
Co-founder of Park Watch