Knoxville — No action was taken regarding the franchise fees to be attached to Alliant Energy bills within the City of Knoxville, but two local residents voiced their concerns regarding the passage of the fees.
"Not everyone has that extra money to pay," Ed Moses told the council. "I don't think you're serving the citizens of Knoxville."
The City has already passed a 5 percent franchise fee, connected to the electrical utility with MidAmerican Energy. The City is seeking a similar, 5 percent fee, to attach to natural gas bills. Council has been discussing the fees for months, in anticipation of property tax reform laws being handed down by the Iowa Legislature. However, the Legislature adjourned without completing action on property tax reform. The City's budget for the fiscal year, which began on Sunday, July 1, included expenditures to be paid for through franchise fees.
This was questioned by former council member Jerri Uitermarkt. City Attorney Bob Stuyvesant explained that City budgets are always built on anticipated revenue, and if necessary, budget amendments can be made to reflect true figures.
"We're in a competitive state here," Uitermarkt said in objection to the fees. She discussed how the franchise fees may be a deterrent to those who seek a move to Knoxville. Knoxville's population has declined, and its sewer user fees are high, she added.
"Let's grow Knoxville," Uitermarkt said. "Let's improve living conditions."
Following the public hearing, City Manager Harold Stewart told the council that the franchise agreement with Alliant is not ready for a vote. Verbiage granting the franchise fee, if approved, will be included in a 25-year agreement with Alliant to provide natural gas to the city. Following the meeting, Stewart indicated that the agreement was incomplete due to infrastructure issues, including right of way, which entity is responsible for which aspects of the gas lines, etc. Stewart said the City and Alliant have been working on it for a couple of weeks and it should be completed soon.
The Alliant issue will likely be on the next regular council agenda. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 16, at 6:15 p.m.
Alliant is proposing a rate increase for its gas customers. The request was filed with the Iowa Utilities Board on May 25.
"The proposed increase would generate about $14.8 million in additional annual revenue (5.6 percent increase). Under Iowa law, a temporary revenue increase of $8.6 million (3.3 percent), which did not require pre-approval from the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), went into effect on June 4, 2012. If the Board establishes final rates that are less than those temporary rates, the difference collected by Alliant/IPL will be refunded to customers, with interest," a press release from the Iowa Utilities Board reads. The Board is expected to make a decision by March 25, 2013.
You can share your thoughts regarding Alliant's proposal with the Board. To send written comments, consumers may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, access the electronic comment form at iub.iowa.gov, or mail comments to the Iowa Utilities Board, Executive Secretary, Docket No. RPU-2012-0002, 1375 E. Court Avenue, Rm. 69, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0069.
Public hearings are also being held. The closest one to Knoxville is scheduled for July 19 at Fisher Community Center, 709 South Center Street, Marshalltown.
Look for full reports on the council meeting in the July 6 Journal-Express.