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Ask Mr. Answer Person: More of your municipal utility questions answered

Posted: Mon, Feb 5, 2018 8:37 AM

(Mr. Answer Person has been swamped with questions about the proposed municipal electric utility in Decorah.  Obviously, this has already become a very heated issue in Decorah--and the city council hasn't even voted yet on whether to hold a referendum!  Mr. Answer Person will be trying his best to answer questions about this issue and staying impartial--meaning he'll get yelled at by both sides!):

"It doesn't seem fair to me that only people living in the City of Decorah would get to vote on this issue, yet Decorah Power is proposing the new electric utility would serve customers outside the city limits"

Mr. Answer Person says: "Yes, I recall with great fondness all the other times we have voted on which utility should supply our electricity!  OK, you're correct that it's unfortunate that some rural residents wouldn't get to vote if there's a referendum on this issue, but it's the three members of the Iowa Utilities Board who will decide whether all of Alliant's service area in the Decorah area would be turned over to a municipal electric utility--not the voters.  City of Decorah voters are the ones who get to vote on whether to petition the Iowa Utilities Board on this topic because they're the ones who are risking higher property taxes if the IUB turns down a petition from Decorah, but the costs of that petition still need to be paid."

"Why have some Winneshiek Energy District employees and board members been involved in the push for a municipal electric utility?"

Mr. Answer Person says: "Energy District Director Andy Johnson says one of the goals of the energy district is educating the public about energy-related issues.  The WED Board has approved a supporting role of the Decorah Power initiative as part of the energy district's overall goals. 

On the other hand, when Decorah Power was created, it was formed as a 501(c)4 organization--a type of organization that can do lobbying, as opposed to education.

Johnson says if the Decorah City Council agrees to set a date for a referendum on the municipal electric utility issue, Winneshiek Energy District will then step out of the picture because the issue becomes a political campaign instead of an educational effort."

"Why aren't all of the Decorah Power board members people who live in the City of Decorah?"

Mr. Answer Person says: "Five out of the ten Decorah Power board members live outside the city limits, with the other five living within the city limits.  However, the other five who live in rural Decorah live, work, own a business or own investment property within the city limits.  And, once again, it will be the three Iowa Utilities Board members living in the Des Moines area who will have final say on this project--people who live waaaaaay out of town!"