SHELDON—The Sheldon City Council will host its third public hearing on the proposed franchise agreements/fees with MidAmerican Energy Co. when it meets at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21.
Franchise fees serve as a revenue source for cities through an agreement reached with a community’s utility provider in which the company attaches an additional line item on a customer’s bill.
Under Sheldon’s proposed ordinances, residents would have to pay a 5 percent fee on their MidAmerican gas and electric bills. Nonresidential customers would pay a 2 percent fee and city accounts as well as public and private schools including Northwest Iowa Community College are excluded.
At a 5 percent rate, a person with a $100 electric bill would pay an additional $5 on their bill.
Estimates from MidAmerican — based on 2018 billing — show the city could collect $355,000 annually with a franchise fee set at 5 percent for residential customers and 2 percent for nonresidential customers.
Approximately 37.5 percent of those funds would be used to replace the city’s local option sales tax while the remaining amount would be used to support the city’s emergency services.
Those funds can be used for equipment or for the construction, reconstruction or repair of public grounds associated with public safety.
During previous meetings and workshops on the proposal, some Sheldon residents have expressed vocal opposition to the franchise idea and the Aug. 7 public hearing was especially contentious.
“We are getting nothing from MidAmerican. Nothing,” resident Marv Van Riesen told the council during the Aug. 7 hearing.
“We give them the right to come on our property anytime they want and we’ve been operating for years without a franchise. Why do that now? The only reason you want it is for the money. That’s what it’s all about here.”
Van Riesen was not the only resident to vehemently express their displeasure with the concept. Terry Braaksma vowed to “make every possible effort I can to stop additional funding for the city.”
City manager Sam Kooiker defended the agreements and noted Sheldon is the only community in MidAmerican’s territory without a franchise agreement in place.
Kooiker also noted Sheldon’s current handshake agreement with the utility is not recognized by Iowa law.
Another noteworthy item on the agenda is the appointment of Kellie Einck of Primghar to Sheldon Regional Airport Commission. The discussion was tabled during the Aug. 7 meeting.
Einck, a licensed pilot, was expected to be appointed by the council to replace longtime commission member Skip Tanner. However, fellow commission member Rob Dixon took exception to the appointment.
Dixon said the city was appointing Einck to the board simply for diversity, which he disagreed with.
“This diversity thing, that’s all fine and I have nothing against women on the board,” he said. “But why would you throw somebody like Skip Tanner off the airport board who has served many years? Now, you’ve found yourself in a dilemma.”
Councilman Brad Hindt acknowledged the council previously had gender balanced the Crossroads Pavilion Board of Directors and planned to the do the same for all of its boards and commissions.
Iowa passed a law in 2012 that required all city, county and state boards to be gender balanced.
According to a September 2018 study by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University, 63 percent of city boards and commissions in Iowa are gender balanced.
Women make up 42.43 percent of city board members in Iowa, however; the study also noted that women make up less than 35 percent of membership on water works, planning and zoning, and airport boards in particular.
Sheldon’s airport commission has no women on it and the eight-member planning and zoning board, which has a vacancy, has two female members.
In other business, the council will hold a public hearing for the proposed Jinkinson Second Addition minor subdivision.
This story has been updated to reflect that it was the third public hearing for the proposed franchise agreements/fees and not the second.