About 2.5 months after plans for a special election to decide the fate of a 5% franchise fee on electric and gas bills for Marshalltown residents were scrapped, the issue has been to again discussed at Monday night’s city council meeting after being removed from the consent program.
Councilor Gary Thompson requested that three agenda items be held to hold public hearings on proposed changes to the ordinance to establish electricity and gas franchise fees and a statement of revenue goal related be removed from the consent agenda, and he gave the floor to Mark Eaton, who had requested that he pull the article, to speak on the matter.
Eaton said he was “appalled” that the franchise fee was on the consent agenda and that holding a public hearing should be considered a moot point.
“I think it shows the audience a lot of what you care about,” he said. “I think this is going to have a negative impact on the community. I think that shouldn’t happen. I think it should be on the ballot in November, and therefore there is no call for a public hearing. And it will have a negative impact on the poor, small businesses and nonprofits. They cannot avoid paying this franchise fee. Businesses will pass this on to their cost of goods sold.
He was also concerned that revenue generated from the fees would be misused and spent on new developments rather than rebuilding and repairing current infrastructure. As it stands, if the board votes to approve the franchise fee, it will go into effect unless a petition with at least 249 signatures is generated to force a special election, and Eaton said he “would get 500” to ensure it would be put to a vote.
“While I receive this petition, I think I will receive a petition to propose that all local option sales tax be directed to debt relief,” Eaton said.
Another resident, Doris Kinnick, told council she was also disappointed to see franchise fees back on the agenda and worried it would have a negative impact on all members of the community, especially those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
A series of motions to move forward with holding a public hearing for the June 12 meeting passed 6 to 1, with Al Hoop opposing each one. Thompson then clarified that while he was against franchise fees, he wanted a public hearing to be held so that more citizens could have their voices heard on franchise fees.
According to City Clerk Alicia Hunter, if a second reading is approved on June 26 and a third reading on July 10, the fee would be applied on October 1 unless there is a petition for a special election. The draft statement of revenue goals would allocate a minimum of 12% of the fee to property tax relief, 9% to repair, remediation, restoration, cleaning, replacement and improving existing public improvements and other
state-owned properties, buildings and facilities, nine percent for public safety, including fire, police, emergency services, sanitation, street and civil defense equipment and the remaining 70 percent for the construction, reconstruction, or repair of streets, highways, bridges, sidewalks, pedestrian underpasses and overpasses, street lights, and public lands, as well as the acquisition of real estate necessary for these purposes.
In March, the Secretary of State, through the Marshall County Auditor’s Office, determined that the city could not call a special election on a franchise fee because a special election could only be held through a petition with the signatures of at least 10% of the number of voters in the last municipal election held in November 2021.
Contact Robert Maharry
at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or