Council votes to fight Alliant rate hike

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, August 10, 2010

After indicating their interest to intervene in an Alliant Energy rate increase during their last meeting, Albert Lea City Council members on Monday voted to officially be represented by two entities when the issue comes in front of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

The city will be one of 14 parties represented by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to intercede on the issue, and it will also be represented individually by lawyers at Flaherty & Hood.

The efforts will seek a review and reduction of the proposed rate increase of 22 percent that was effective July 6.

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City Manager Jim Norman said staff are estimating that the impact of the proposed rate increase would cost the city alone about $236,000 per year.

A large hit would come because of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Because the increase would be a severe economic hardship on the city, its residents and businesses, the city is jumping in to oppose the action, he said.

Costs for the legal representation are about $8,600 for the state chamber and between $12,000 and $15,000 for Flaherty & Hood, Norman said.

The Albert Lea Port Authority has agreed to come in and pay half of the costs. Part of the cost will also come from the city’s enterprise fund.

“The ALEDA Board believes that the rate increase is of great concern as we grow jobs and add tax base to the community,” said Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman in a letter to Norman. “Our industrial users already face a rate 15 percent higher than an Alliant industrial user in Iowa.”

Dorman said because there would be such a large increase in the costs to the wastewater treatment plant, this additional cost would most likely have to be passed on to all sewer users, both commercial and residential. This would be in addition to the direct costs the residents face.

The city is the largest electrical user Alliant Energy has in Minnesota.

According to a letter sent to Norman, Flaherty and Hood will handle media and public relations in the case, driving citizens to participate in the three public hearings scheduled for early December and the full Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hearing in late spring 2011.

The law firm will also draft and submit legal briefs advocating the city and coordinate city testimony.

Lastly, the firm will provide a detailed analysis and breakdown of the impact the rate increase would have on the city.

Look to Thursday’s Tribune for more about the council meeting.