Two-thirds of likely voters oppose a referendum authorizing city-owned utilities, according to a survey released today by the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber polled 403 randomly selected residents across the city in advance of the City Council’s August 1 hearings on whether to take over electric and natural gas service when municipal franchise agreements with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy expire in 2014.

“When there are so many needs and the city is understandably tight fiscally, why open this door?” said Todd Klingel, president and CEO of the chamber.

He added: “It’s a pretty divisive issue, and when we have so many issues we need to [work on] together, why are we inventing a new one?”

One quarter of voters surveyed “strongly oppose” the referendum, which the council is taking steps to approve for the November ballot.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said they opposed spending the public money required to buy assets of the utilizes, and 42 percent believe the city should spend less time on energy issues.