By Sandy Barnes
The Board of Trustees is supporting a franchise agreement with Xcel Energy, which would increase residents’ electric bills by 3 percent.
The Town is pursuing the franchise to generate additional revenue. While speaking at the Tuesday, May 5 board meeting, Xcel Energy representative Todd Anderson estimated the Town would receive between $70,000 and $80,000 a year in franchise fees through the agreement. Anderson also said that Xcel requires a long-term 20-year commitment from the Town.
“I think there are some useful advantages to franchise fees, but residents have to pay it,” said Trustee Michael Patrick. “It’s important for the community to weigh in on this,” he added. “That’s a decision the seven of us get to make … I’d feel more comfortable to have a consensus.”
Town attorney Bruce Fickel explained notice regarding pursuit of the franchise agreement would need to be published three times in the paper of record. Anderson said the process usually takes from one-and-a-half to two months.
Patrick and other trustees asked if Xcel would consider supporting a plan to generate solar power for a residential community in Berthoud. Trustee Jeff Hindman suggested the franchise agreement have a clause about a solar farm for the subdivision. Trustee John Bauer also expressed support for the generation of solar power on the property. “I’m not sure that’s going to be a franchise issue,” remarked Fickel. Anderson added that state regulations would come into play regarding the use of solar power for a project.
According to the public service franchise agreement Fickel presented for consideration, customers are not prohibited from self-generating electricity. However, Xcel is not required to invest in renewable energy and incur costs that cannot be recovered through its ratemaking process.
While looking at possible advantages of the Xcel franchise, Trustee Glen Buckingham asked how long it would take to accrue enough funds to pay for under grounding utilities in the Town. Anderson replied that it is a “long, expensive process,” with Xcel agreeing to contribute at least 1 percent annually of gross electric revenues to the effort. “If it’s really a feel-good-ism, we need to know this,” Buckingham said.
Because the issue was discussed during a board study session, the trustees took no formal action on the franchise agreement Tuesday night.