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City panel backs franchise deals
[January 09, 2013]

City panel backs franchise deals

CHEYENNE, Jan 09, 2013 (Wyoming Tribune-Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- More than six months after High West Energy asked to serve customers inside city limits, the electric co-op soon may get its wish.

On Tuesday, the City Council's Finance Committee recommended approval of a franchise agreement with High West and a separate deal with Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power.

Most of the committee's members n Jim Brown, Georgia Broyles and Jimmy Valdez n previously had voted to support the pact with High West Energy.

The fourth member, Mike Luna, said he intends to cast a vote in favor of the franchise agreement.

"A little competition never hurt anybody," he said.

While he said he recognizes there won't be direct competition between the two, he added, "I just think it's a really good thing for the city." The agreement will allow High West to serve customers inside city limits, but both utilities will be limited in whom they serve by their approved service areas.

In the past, when the council annexed property served by High West, the residents became Cheyenne Light customers.

If the pact is approved, High West would be able to continue serving its customers after annexation. It would not allow customers to choose their electric service provider.

During a meeting in early December, the City Council voted 5-5 on second reading of the franchise agreement with High West. Without support from the majority of the council, it did not move forward.

Because of that decision, the council voted to not act on updating Cheyenne Light's agreement.

One of the concerns with the original proposals was the inclusion of automatic franchise fee increases.

At the council's last December meeting, members voted to revisit the issue and send updated versions of the franchise agreements to the Finance Committee. Those give the city the option to increase franchise fees within designated time frames.

Both charge the equivalent of 3 percent franchise fees, the same as the fee in Cheyenne Light's existing franchise agreement.

The agreements allow increases of 0.5 percentage points in the first quarters of 2020, 2027 and 2034.

As originally proposed, the pacts had automatic increases. That was opposed by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

At the December council meeting, the Chamber's president, Dale Steenbergen, said he supports the compromise.

"The Chamber had concerns about increasing taxes in this environment," he added. "I think that government did what it should in this situation. It came up with a compromise (where) there won't be immediate tax increases but the city can go back and unilaterally change those.

"I think that's a good decision. In a few years if we need to increase those to cover those costs, there's an opportunity to do that." Luna said he also supports the compromise, but only if both companies are treated the same in fee increases.

In other action: The Cheyenne City Council's Finance Committee on Tuesday recommended approval of a contract with Transit Plus for a five-year Transit Development Plan for the Cheyenne Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The plan helps to assure that the city's transit system is serving the public as best as possible, said Tom Mason, director of the planning group.

Also on Tuesday, the committee recommended approval of: -An outside user water/sewer agreement with Swan Ranch Properties. It is the ninth such request for the property and all have been approved.

-Holding a public hearing to discuss violations of alcohol laws at Mingles Bar. During undercover operations, minors were sold alcohol three times within a 12-month period.

Owen Groshart, who represented the business, said it takes a zero-tolerance policy to underage drinking, adding that high turnover over the last year contributed to the problems.

-A $106,043 contract modification with Ayres Associates related to the East Pershing Boulevard reconstruction project.

-The purchase of a backhoe from Titan Machinery for a net cost of $99,208.

___ (c)2013 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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