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Another municipal electric utility feasibility study?

Posted: Mon, Feb 12, 2018 11:42 AM

One of the feasibility studies conducted into creating a municipal electric utility in Decorah places the value of the current electrical distribution facilities at $5.6 million, while another places the value at $20 million.  One of the studies places the total cost of acquisition and start-up costs at $7.6 million, while the other places the same figure at $51 million.

Which feasibility study is right and which study is wrong?  Or are they both wrong?  Those are some of the issues facing members of the Decorah City Council, who have heard from both the consultants which did Decorah Power's feasibility study and Alliant Energy's feasibility study.  The city council will hold a work session at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday to continue their own discussion of the issue.

One of the points to be discussed is whether the city needs to pay for its own feasibility study—a third attempt to try to figure out how much switching to a municipal electric utility would cost.  While a full-fledged new study might cost around $100,000, there's a much less expensive option on the table also—hiring a consultant to review the two existing studies to make comments.  Either way, there would be unplanned costs for the City of Decorah. 

On the other hand, without a third-party study or review, voters would not have the benefit of a neutral study when voting on a referendum.  More to the point, members of the Decorah City Council wouldn't know how to interpret two highly contradictory feasibility studies as they vote on whether to send the municipal electric utility question to a referendum.

Tuesday night's city council work session will attempt to answer all the questions raised by the public about the issue--but the biggest question of all might be how city council members, who obviously don't have a background in running an electric utility, will be able to answer those questions without the help of another consultant.