Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hailey opts for shorter power contract

Idaho Power offered to collect 2 percent more in exchange for 20-year franchise agreement

Express Staff Writer

Fritz Haemmerle

The Hailey City Council has chosen to extend a franchise fee agreement with Idaho Power for 10 years, taking an additional 1 percent of collected ratepayer fees into the city's general fund. The city has done so for at least 20 years.

Idaho Power pays Hailey, through franchise agreements, for the use of alleyways and other rights of way to maintain electrical lines and to sell electricity. Idaho Power had been seeking a 20-year agreement last week that would have allowed the utility company to collect an additional 2 percent from ratepayers for the city.

"A longer-term agreement, along with a non-competition clause, is very valuable to us," said company representative Dan Olmstead. "It provides more certainty that the company will have a revenue stream."

But during a council meeting on Monday, June 28, the council decided not to take the additional 2 percent and keep the franchise agreement short-term, to save Hailey residents and businesses money on their power bills.

"Right now, everyone is holding on by their teeth," said Councilman Fritz Haemmerle. "I saw my power bill almost double last year."

Councilwoman Carol Brown was pulling for the council to approve the 20-year, 3 percent deal in order to pay for the retrofitting of city street lights to meet the city's "dark sky" ordinance, which calls for a reduction of glare from street lights.

Mayor Rick Davis said the dark sky ordinance was not a priority during dark economic times.

"It does not fall into the categories of health, safety and welfare of the citizens," he said.

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