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Pueblo votes to keep Black Hills Energy by a landslide

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- No more protests and no more surveys, and the results from Tuesday's Special Election in Pueblo is decided.

Pueblo Voters have voted to keep Black Hills Energy as the city's electricity provider for at least the next ten years.

Ballot Question 2A will asked pueblo voters if they wish to leave Black Hills Energy and form a public electric utility, with the Pueblo Board of Water Works at the helm.

The ballot question was voted down by a significant margin of against the measure 12,727 to 5,930 for the measure.

According to the Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz, there are still thousands of ballots left to count. However, the current margin is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Black Hills Energy.

Proponents of the move to leave Black Hills Energy said rates are simply too high, while opponents believe municipalization will only cost more for taxpayers in the long run.

“I commend them for making an educated decision on this it is too costly and too risky for the government to take over the utility,” said Vance Crocker with the VP at Black Hills Energy for the state of Colorado.

Crocker says the previous offer made to Pueblo City Council to remain in town, that was shot down, is still on the table. This includes a five year rate freeze and renewable projects.

“Renewable projects that will bring cost savings to our customers, and we are going to continue to be out there and follow thru with those commitments,” said Crocker.

"The voters have spoke and we will live with their decision,” said Mayor Nick Gradisar with Tuesday evening after the results were out.

Mayor Gradisar, who largely advocated in favor of municipalization says the city is willing to reconsider Black Hills offer.

As for the lopsided outcome, the mayor points to the pro-Black Hills Energy campaign 'Pueblo Cares'.

“I think it was a million and half bucks of money poured into the campaign," said Gradisar when asked why he believes voters shot down Ballot Question 2A. "The scare tactics that were used. I mean if you think about it there wasn’t a positive thing said about black hills energy in their campaign. It was all a negative campaign attack the Board of Water Works and attacking the city council."

Black Hills Energy says they’ve never denied they are a contributors to the campaign Pueblo Cares. However, they won’t disclose exactly how much.

Looking to the future there are another ten years on Black Hills' contract with the city of Pueblo. However, there is another potential off ramp in five years. If the Pueblo City Council in 2025 chooses to use it.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

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