According to SMPA officials, a total of 324 ballots were returned from members residing in Telluride’s District 4 with 272 valid and 52 “spoiled” ballots.
“I don’t know how effective I will be, especially because I am a minority on the board,” Saftler said of taking his new post on SMPA’s board. Saftler was alluding to the fact that, with the exception of Wes Perrin, the previous board voted to extend SMPA’s contract with wholesale power provider the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and its coal-fired future from 2040 to 2050.
“The rest of the board has bought into the idea of burning coal until we die,” Saftler said. “This is something I feel strongly about and I will be there to remind the rest of the board as often as appropriate until it probably gets to be obnoxious.”
Saftler said he decided to run after the 2007 SMPA annual meeting which was held in Telluride. At that meeting, Saftler was among many who showed the board displeasure in its decision to extend the contract with Tri-State. To open the eyes of the board at the meeting, several resolutions were made from the floor demanding that the energy co-op purchase more power from local renewable projects and support energy efficiency initiatives in the region.
“At last year’s meeting, I saw how unresponsive they were,” Saftler said. “It infuriated a bunch of us.” Saftler went on to say that he was not the original candidate to run for the District 4 seat but “it fell into my lap” after the initial candidate couldn’t run because he lived just outside the district.
“And then people came up to me and kept asking me to speak truth to power and that sounded like something that I could do,” he said. “I will try to bring forward issues that people care about and we will try to get as creative as we can in doing it.”
“He brings a new voice,” said District 2 Boardmember Perrin after the election results were released. “I think the size indicates that they are ready for a change. I think everybody in the whole country is in the mood for a change and that is probably reflective in the vote.”
Saftler’s win comes just days after the (compared to last year’s) seemingly non-confrontational 2008 SMPA annual meeting, which was held in Norwood last Saturday. At that meeting, Tri-State’s new General Manager/Executive Vice President Ken Anderson laid out a number of renewable energy initiatives Tri-State is currently looking at but also reiterated the fact that Tri-State remains committed to coal because of it’s reliability and cost.
“He gives good lip service,” Saftler said. “At the same time he did say that he is committed to coal even though they got shot down three times in Kansas by the Kansas State Legislature. He plans to continue to push for another coal burning project in Kansas and that was an interesting eye-opener to me.”
In looking to the future of SMPA’s power consumption, Saftler is looking to become more self sufficient by using a lot more solar, pre-heated water from solar, community greenhouses and “maybe even use waste water.”
“I believe in this region and I believe in self sufficiency,” he said. “At the same time we do belong to a co-op and we have to pay back into the system that we feed off of. We all consume electricity here and there is the possibility that we will be on this system for a very long time.” Saftler added that he would like to get people engaged in a discussion on how to bring peak demand down, which, if effective could “reduce the need for additional power plants.”
SMPA Board President Gary Yamnitz declined to comment on Saftler’s victory and Arnold did not return phone calls to The Watch by press time for comment.
Results from the District 1 election between Gayland Thompson and Mel Staats have not been released as of press time because of a technicality in the election. Unofficially, Thompson beat Staats with a vote of 196 to 138. A total of 396 votes were returned in district 1 with 62 of those votes deemed “spoiled.”
Bill Green, manager of public relations for SMPA, said on Tuesday that the current SMPA Board will have to meet to discuss the District 1 election and how to move forward with the technicality and the results.