City taking first steps on franchise tax Monday

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – City officials will consider two resolutions for public hearings to grant new franchise taxes on electric and gas services in the city.

The Fort Madison City Council will consider the action Monday at 5:30 p.m. instead of the usual Tuesday meeting time due to the general election.

The original City Council meeting schedule accommodated for polling at City Hall on Tuesday. The polling has since been moved due to COVID-19 prevalence in Lee County, however the meeting date was kept at Monday.

The City Council will consider setting public hearings to repeal the city’s current franchise agreement with Interstate Power and Light Company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, and issue new agreements under which a franchise fee will be assessed. The council will consider the same resolution with MidAmerican Energy on natural gas consumption.

The city is facing opposition from industrial and economic development officials on the utility tax citing current economic hardships, and internal and external competition.

City officials are projecting budget deficits over the next five years and beyond if additional revenues are identified.

Several local officials including Fort Madison Economic Development Corporation President Bob Huffman said the city needs to take a harder look at its operating budget to see if there are other ways of easing financial pressure.

According to the resolutions in the councilmembers packets, the franchise fee would be 1.5% of the gross revenue generated from sales of electricity and within the corporate limits of the city. The resolution for the gas franchise action was not included in the packet.

The public hearing is set for Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

The city would be required to generate a revenue purpose statement outlining the purpose for collecting the revenue at the increased rate.

In an unrelated issue, the council will vote to approve a letter to the Lee County Board of Supervisors concerning the county’s new proposed ambulance service. City officials have expressed concerns about the growing costs of acquiring the service and the level of service being provided.

The county is planning to take over the Lee County Ambulance Service effective July 1, 2021. Final budget numbers, equipment, training, software and acquisition costs are still being hammered out by a committee overseeing the acquisition. Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren sits on that committee.

The copy of the letter was not included in the packet. As of Sunday afternoon, city clerk Melinda Blind was still waiting on any final changes in the wording of the letter.

In other action, the council is set to:
•consider the first reading of an ordinance to eliminate parking on the south side of Avenue E from 2nd to 26th streets.
•consider approving a $62,359 change order to the parking lot at Avenue F and 8th Street. The city is redoing the parking lot with permeable pavers as part of stormwater improvement project financed by a reimbursement of interest paid on waste water treatment plant improvement loans.

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