Guest Column: Why buy ‘Gassie,’ the Electric Cow?

Rockton: Why buy the cow when somebody else is keeping it, feeding it and selling you cheap milk?

By Louise Trull

Rockton taxpayers are awakening to the fact that their leadership is on the verge of making a decision so silly  it borders on the unbelievable, and they don’t know how to stop it.

Rock Energy Cooperative (REC) supplies gas and electric utilities to the village and surrounding area, providing the best service at the best price around. Yet, Rockton Village President Dale Adams says he can do it cheaper by buying the Cooperative and running it as a municipal utility and eliminate the profit motive, which is what Rock Electric Cooperative is NOW doing. That is what co-ops do.

Mr. Adams claims residents want this because they voted for it in the April 2005 election/referendum, when two questions appeared on the ballot asking:  (1) if the village should issue certificates not to exceed $48 million to acquire, construct, maintain and improve the South Beloit Gas, Water & Electric Co. (SBGWE); and (2) to operate the acquired assets as a municipal utility.

Mr. Adams mounted a campaign telling voters he could lower their utility rates, without explaining how he could do it. Mr. Adams claims the referendum passed by 65 percent. In fact, there were 4,654 registered voters then, and only 1,097 bothered to vote.

Question 1 received 608 “yes” votes, and 390 “no” votes, with 99 ballots returned with no vote.

Question 2 received 636 “yes” votes, and 352 “no” votes, with 109 ballots returned with no vote.

That means 3,557 voters stayed home and never voted for village president or the two questions, less than 20 percent of the registered voters.

People living outside the village, but being served by the utility, were not allowed to vote. The ballots with no vote might indicate voters’ lack of understanding the issues.

All this obviously does not equal the mandate Mr. Adams claims.

Mr. Adams was supposed to provide a “feasibility study” that would spell out how his promise of lower rates would be accomplished. This study has never appeared, possibly because it is impossible.

Why should Rockton taxpayers saddle themselves with a $48 million debt, plus interest, to buy a utility company that is already serving them and doing it with the cheapest rates in the area without any taxpayer investment?

Again, why buy the company when you already have its service without any investment?

The entire notion is so ridiculous. Yes, it appears silly beyond belief. Why would anyone fall for such a scheme? Why is Mr. Adams touting it? And how do taxpayers put a stop to it?

It is up to the Board of Trustees to bring sanity back and stop this mess. The Board of Trustees should rise in indignation at this insult to the intelligence of taxpayers and do what they were elected to do: carry on with the business of running the village.

Let the Rock Energy Cooperative do what it has proved it can do best without any investment by its customers, who are already participating members of the co-op.

Rockton-area taxpayers and utility customers had better start attending Village Board meetings and demanding sanity; otherwise, we deserve every milking we get. Consumers look really “purty” when they say, “Mooooo!”

Note: Louise Trull is a long-time Rockton resident and former Winnebago County Board member. Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this column.

From the Jan. 13-19, 2010 issue.

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