The proposed franchise fee agreement renewal between the city of Clinton and Alliant Energy contains franchise fee language, making the city of Clinton one of the many cities across the country to have fee language in the agreement without having a fee implemented.
The franchise agreement is up for renewal in Dec. 2013 after being implemented 25 years ago.
The proposed agreement is for 25 years, but, on a motion from Councilwoman Jennifer Graf, at-large, will contain a clause for the city to opt-out of the agreement in 10 years.
The Clinton City Council’s Committee of the Whole discussed the franchise agreement at its meeting Tuesday night, with much of the discussion focusing on the length of the agreement and the franchise fee.
Keith Sherman, Franchise and Community Relations Manager for Alliant Energy said Alliant neither advocates nor opposes the franchise fee, which would allow the city to charge customers up to 5 percent of their bill and receive the revenue.
“We have 82 franchises that have franchise language in and of those 82 franchises, there are 35 franchises that actually have franchise fees,” Sherman said. “The reason for those franchises that do not have fees listed, is they want the language in the agreement so that, that council or a future council can impose a franchise fee through the legal channels...so that the city can protect its interests or generate new revenue, whatever the case may be.”
Councilman John Rowland, at-large, raised concerns about the process beyond the agreement that would allow a fee to be implemented.
"I don't see any checks and balances in this," Rowland said. "It would seem to me that, if the city wanted to implement some sort of franchise fees after this was passed, I think the they could do it administratively."
City Attorney Jeff Farwell clarified that the city could not implement the fee administratively simply because the agreement contains fee language.
First, a public hearing on the franchise fee would be held. Following the public hearing, the City Council would need to vote. After the first two steps were completed the public or council could push for a referendum.
“Just because the language is there, doesn't mean the city's going to do it,” Councilwoman Bev Hermann, Ward 3, said. “This is not the time to discuss whether or not we would want a franchise fee. This is about the agreement.”
The agreement renewal also details the procedure to be followed when Alliant is performing work in the city right of way, or the city is widening a road that requires Alliant to move its infrastructure, among other items.
The Committee of the Whole voted to move the agreement forward with the 10-year cancellation clause inserted. It will be on the agenda as an ordinance for first consideration at the City Council meeting Sept. 11.