Mayor Tom Henry wrote an op-ed piece for the Journal Gazette.
It appeared in today’s edition and is reprinted in it’s entirety (without JG cuts) here, with permission.
Value of citizen-owned electric utility prompts Mayor’s fight for fairness
Like our award-winning parks and our All-America City spirit, Fort Wayne’s electric utility is one of our community’s most precious assets. You may not even realize that we still own a municipal electric company, but we do. It belongs to you. You are a citizen-owner. And its worth is upwards of $100 million.
Through the foresight of city leaders and affirmed by a vote of the public, our electric utility was leased to I&M in 1974. It was never sold. Those forward-thinking officials recognized wisely what a prized resource our electric company is for all of us. As a result, they made every effort to safeguard its existence and also strengthen our community by putting the lease payments into a trust for posterity.
Our electric utility’s legacy is one you can see and touch every time you enjoy a festival at Headwaters Park or shop at a revitalized Southtown Center or attend an event at the expanded Grand Wayne Center. The funds from the lease helped make these successful projects, and many others, possible.
In the days ahead, with your input, we can continue investing those dollars in priority community needs such as job creation, economic development, education, infrastructure, technology and quality-of-life enhancements – all the things necessary to keep Fort Wayne attractive and thriving.
The decision to competitively bid a new electric service provider after 35 years demonstrates my commitment to protect the potential $100 million value of your electric company and the privilege of serving its customers.
My resolve to sort through the issues with I&M reflects that same steadfastness. It is important to note, however, that never before under modern Indiana law has an electric utility been allowed to take customers from another without compensation, precisely what I&M wants to do in this case.
Early next year the lease with I&M will come to an end. That is why, as we prepare for the future, I am determined to stand up for our utility and your rights. I will fight to get the best deal possible for our community. It is also why I am pledged to ensure the best service and rates for our customers no matter who the electric supplier is.
To those who live within our municipal electric company’s service boundaries, I would like to send a special message: Regardless of how the talks with I&M turn out, your electric service will continue as usual. That is a promise.
You will be able to count on reliable, high-quality, cost-competitive electric service today, and tomorrow, whether it is delivered by I&M or another respected, proven utility operator.
Your concerns about times of need are my concerns as well. While I&M is a fine corporate citizen and its hard work during emergencies remains worthy of praise, industry standards require mutual aid during disasters. You can be confident that help will always be there.
I understand that these are tough economic times for all of us, so I am doing everything in my power to defend the value of our electric utility – an irreplaceable economic asset – for the benefit of generations to come.
I am equally mindful that affordable electric rates are an essential. Let me assure you, the annual cost to the average ratepayer of the City’s proposed settlement with I&M would be no more than the price of a single movie ticket.
If you have any questions or would like more information about your electric utility, a map of the service area or a speaker for your group or organization, please call 427-1120 or go here for a list of related documents.
I&M is a good neighbor, and the disagreement with the company is not one that I sought. I still believe a positive outcome will be found. But as you consider this vital issue, please know that I am fighting for fairness. I am fighting for you.