SHELDON— Let the people decide.
That was Sheldon mayor Greg Geels’ proposal at the Wednesday, May 1, regular council meeting as the city weighs entering into a franchise agreement with MidAmerican Energy Co.
Such an agreement eventually would lead to franchise fees being placed on natural gas and electric services for MidAmerican customers in Sheldon with a few exceptions.
“In all reality, we all realize there’s a real possibility that this thing could be turned into a referendum just like we had with the mayoral appointment,” Geels said. “What if we be proactive and decide we are going to put it to a vote first? Get it out there, continue the discussion, not have a special election but put it on the ballot in November when we are having our general election and then that becomes our timetable.”
There has been some vocal opposition from Sheldon residents about entering into the franchise agreement with MidAmerican.
Some critics think it will limit Sheldon’s future utility options while others noted it is just another way to tax residents.
The city has had earnest conversations about entering into a franchise agreement with MidAmerican since December 2017; however, things ramped up in February as the council and city staff hammered out the fiscal year 2019-20 budget.
While members of the council have expressed support for the franchise agreement in previous meetings, Geels noted bringing it to the ballot is the best call, citing his own recent experiences with the mayoral seat.
A former at-large city councilman, Geels was appointed as mayor on April 3 and sworn in on April 15; however, citizens forced a special election via petition and Geels is being challenged for the seat by Fred Grein.
The election will be held Tuesday, May 21, and Geels’ former council seat also is on the ballot.
“I believe in the franchise fee, I think it’s a good equitable way of raising the funds that we need, but that’s how I think and I think everybody should have an opportunity to weigh in on this,” Geels said.
Although the council has yet to approve a revenue purpose statement for a franchise fee, should one be enacted, it has indicated the majority of the derived revenues would be used to support Sheldon’s emergencies services.
Those groups — the Sheldon Community Ambulance Team, Sheldon Emergency Management Agency, Sheldon Fire Co. and Sheldon Police Department — felt the pinch of the city’s financial shortcoming during budgeting.
Councilman Pete Hamill supported Geels’ suggestion and noted that time frame would give the city more time work out kinks in the plan.
To get it on the ballot for the fall election, the city has to get all the required information to the O’Brien County Recorder’s Office by Sept. 20.
“We’ve got between now and then to discuss, promote, educate, whatever the case may be,” Geels said.
In addition to approving a revenue purpose statement, the city would have to hold three readings of the ordinance change, which would only go into effect with voter approval. These items will be addressed again at the June 5 regular council meeting and continue from there.
“A referendum from the community is absolutely needed in this,” said councilman Tom Eggers.
Among other business, the council:
- Accepted Kyle Huss’ application to join Sheldon Fire Co.
- Accepted the resignation of Sheldon police officer Scott DeGoei effective June 30.
- Approved a special outdoor liquor license for Brady’s Pub for Saturday, May 11.
- Held a public hearing and approved a development and minimum assessment agreement with Maintainer Corporation of Iowa.
- Set public hearings at the next council meeting at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, for fiscal year 2018-19 budget amendment and final plat for the Crossroads North business park.