Mayor Tom Henry during a press conference
on the Light Lease earlier this month
Press release from the City:
State Rep. Moses, Mayor Henry Defend City Ownership of Electric Utility, Ask Legislators and Public for Support
Special Session is Key to Money-Saving Solution on Light Lease Territory Issue
Standing before the former City Light and Power plant, now Science Central, Mayor Tom Henry and State Representative Win Moses (D-Fort Wayne) today called upon the members of the Indiana General Assembly and all citizens to support legislation that would confirm the City of Fort Wayne’s ownership of its electric utility and the right to serve over 30,000 customers.
The control of the municipal electric utility and the ability to serve its customers emerged as a pivotal issue during the unsuccessful lease negotiations between the City and Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), the current electric service provider. That lease is set to expire on March 1, 2010.
“The issue is simple,” said Mayor Henry. “The City leased its electric utility to I&M in 1974. The utility was never sold. Now after 35 years that lease is coming to an end. Just like a rented car, when the lease runs out, the owner gets the car back. I&M doesn’t want to give the utility back. Rep. Moses’ legislation will make sure City ownership is clear, and that in any new agreement, we can get the best value for taxpayers, and the most competitive rates and highest-quality service for our electric utility customers.”
The City’s lease predates the creation of Indiana’s electric utility service areas. Based upon provisions in the 1980 law establishing those territories, I&M is challenging the City’s ownership. The City asserts those rights are intact and inviolate, and that the public interest is best served by legislative action, not a costly lawsuit.
“Fort Wayne’s electric utility belongs to the people,” said State Rep. Moses. “It is a valuable asset. Serving its nearly 33,000 customers is a privilege. This legislation defends the rights of the citizens of Fort Wayne. It will cost the state nothing, but it will save Fort Wayne taxpayers and ratepayers tens of millions of dollars fighting the deep pockets of I&M in court. This is about fairness. We will not be bullied.”
Moses’ proposal was originally inserted into House Bill 1001, the bill containing the state budget plan. It was removed from the Senate version of that bill, but is anticipated to be included in the House-Senate conference committee draft slated for negotiations over the weekend. The conference committee is made up of fiscal leaders from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses of the Indiana House and Senate. It is charged with reaching a final deal on the state budget.
“We are asking our state legislators to honor and affirm the basic right of ownership – the rights of the people of Fort Wayne,” added Moses. “I am surprised a Goliath like I&M would stake its claim on squatter’s right. An equitable state budget is our first responsibility, but beyond that, there is no more important decision that lawmakers will be asked to make during this special session than this one. Our message is loud and strong: Stand up for the people and don’t waste a single tax dollar. We ask all citizens to join in the fight.”
“The City has been negotiating with I&M for over two years and basic requests for information about our utility’s operation have yielded nothing,” noted Henry. “My goals are to determine the highest value of this important asset, to get the best deal for our citizens and to protect our ratepayers. I’m disappointed I&M is afraid of a little competition in an open and friendly bidding process.”
The City recently announced that it has elected to exercise its option to take the electric utility to the market through a competitive bidding process that will allow the selection of a new operator. A Request for Information is being prepared to determine the interest of other power companies and service providers.
The deadline for the conclusion of the special session is June 30, 2009.