City to vote on franchise fee attorney agreement

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – City officials will once again talk about a possible franchise fee, or tax, on gas and electric service in Fort Madison.

At Tuesday’s regular Fort Madison City Council meeting, the council will vote on an agreement with attorney’s from Ahlers & Cooney out of Des Moines to help facilitate the renewal of franchise agreements.

At the last City Council meeting, a budget outlook was presented by City Manager David Varley that included several fiscal options that he said would put the city in a better financial position for the next five years.

One of the options was instituting a franchise fee on electricity and gas. Varley said a 3% tax on both utilities would put the city in a better position as far as minimum working capital.

Another option would be to bond for the remaining Hwy. 61 improvements and transferring the remaining balance of the Hwy. 61 Fund into the general fund to help ease budget constraints.

Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said the city need to look at possibly combining the two options which could reduce the franchise fee. Mohrfeld said at the Sept. 15 meeting, that he would prefer to phase the franchise fees in to ease the burden on some of the larger industrial users in the city.

There is no agenda action set for Tuesday to act on bonding for the street improvements.

The agreement with Ahlers & Cooney would pay the firm’s representatives, up to $240 per plus expenses to help the city navigate re-instituting the franchise fees. Services would include advising the city and preparing necessary agreements and proceedings for franchise agreements with the utilities.

The city technically already has a franchise fee ordinance in place, but the rates are set at 0%.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda will be two separate resolutions to publish the city’s intent to fill the vacancies created by the resignation of Tyler Miller from the 3rd Ward, and by the death of Bob Morawitz last week.

Mohrfeld said it will be the intent of the council to fill the vacancies by appointment. According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the positions can be filled by appointment within 60 days of the vacancy, or by a petition of those who voted in the last city election in the respective wards.

That petition would need to be filed within 14 days of the city’s published intent and would require either 15% of the voters who voted for those respective wards at the last election.

The appointments would last until the next regular city council election. However an intervening city special election would require the seats to be put up for election.

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