Alva Review-Courier -

Alva City Council turns down new ONG franchise agreement

 

August 25, 2019



During the lengthy Alva City Council meeting Monday, Aug. 19, council members debated the merits of an Oklahoma Natural Gas franchise ordinance and proclamation of an election. Typically in the past these franchise elections have passed with little fanfare. They only come up every 25 years, the usual length of the agreement.

When the matter came up at the July council meeting, Councilman Daniel Winters objected to the one percent increase being asked in the new franchise agreement. He confirmed that this is a “pass-through” tax with the two ONG representatives who were present. The franchise tax is added to the utility bills of ONG customers in Alva and the proceeds from that tax are then paid to the City of Alva. Questions by Winters brought out that the franchise gives ONG the right to use city rights-of-way without paying application fees. The new franchise increased the tax from three percent to four percent.

Also during that meeting, Councilmember Brandon Sherman asked the ONG reps about what they do for the community outside of the natural gas service. They said ONG’s parent company has a department, located in Missouri, that administers their charitable contributions for which entities may apply.

Although the franchise ordinance passed in the July meeting, an accompanying proclamation for the election was left off the agenda so was not passed. This meant the election could not be held.

At Monday’s meeting, the council passed a motion to rescind that ineffective ordinance. Then they were asked to address Ordinance 2019-003 to replace the previous ordinance. Winters said the franchise fee is a “tax without purpose.” He added he did not feel that Alva citizens should be paying for ONG’s permits.

“I implore you all to vote no,” Winters said to the council. He said he did more research and learned Enid had a similar situation not long ago. In that case, they turned down the franchise agreement so ONG had to enter into negotiation about the terms. Winters said he’d like to force ONG back to the table.

Sherman said he’d also looked into the franchise tax agreements and pointed out ONG does not give back to the Alva community in any way.

The current ONG franchise agreement expires in September. Discussion brought out that ONG isn’t going to rip up their lines and leave Alva just because they don’t have an agreement. However, it will mean that the city won’t be collecting franchise tax fees through ONG which amounts to about $60,000 a year, a relatively small amount compared to Alva’s total budget.

Then there was discussion about how to word the motion. Councilman Bo Hannaford made a motion to table the ordinance, seconded by Randy Stelling. But when councilmembers determined this meant they’d have to look at the same ordinance again, Hannaford wanted to amend his motion. City Attorney Rick Cunningham said that couldn’t happen since it had been seconded. So the council voted on the motion and it failed.

Sherman made a new motion, seconded by Winters, to reject the ordinance. That motion passed unanimously as did the resolution proclaiming the election.

So the current 25 year ONG franchise agreement will expire, and the city will wait to see what ONG might propose.

Professional Building Roof Bid

The city received one bid for a roof replacement on the Professional Building, located across Fourth Street from City Hall. The building was gifted to the city a number of years ago by Share Trust, and the city has been renting the office suites to various entities.

The heavy rain this spring brought roof leaks to the city’s attention and caused some damage in at least one office area. Last month the council heard a report from a company who checked the building for mold. Before the city could address mold problem, the roof needed to be replaced.

In deciding how to approach the problem, the city consulted with several roofing companies who suggested different ways to accomplish the job and offered a wide range of quotes. The city advertised for bids on July 21 and opened bids on Aug. 6. Only one company submitted a bid. Flying Out Commercial & Residential Roofing of Edmond bid the job at $153,480.

This is the same company that recently roofed the Alva Public Library, and city officials have been happy with the result. So the council voted unanimously to approve the bid.

Appointments

The council approved two re-appointments made by Mayor Kelly Parker. Charles Murrow will serve on the Board of Adjustment for three more years with his term ending June 2022. Paul Kinzie was re-appointed to the Alva Airport Commission for a five year term ending in June 2024.

Executive Session

The council held an executive session to discuss two items: a six month performance evaluation of Business Manager Joe Don Dunham and negotiations with the firefighters’ union. During executive sessions, only those invited by the council are allowed to remain in the room. The large number of visitors at the meeting went into the lobby to wait while the council met behind closed door.

Following the return to open meeting, Mayor Parker announced that Dunham had received a good evaluation and would continue under his contract so no council action was needed.

There was no action on the union negotiations which affects employment contracts. It was noted on the agenda that the negotiations will likely result in additional cost to this year’s budget, which will be governed by the fire department budget.

Council Comments

At the end of the meeting, council members were invited to make remarks or inquiries on any topic. Randy Stelling offered “kudos” to the street department for the progress they are making on resurfacing city streets. He said the street employees have difficult jobs working in the heat.

Sherman thanked the people of Alva for voting in the recent election and thanked those who came to the council meeting and shared their viewpoints. Regarding one of those comments, he said, “Every (City of Alva) audit has been returned clean.” He challenged anyone to find any city that has an audit that does not have some deficiencies listed.

Winters, regarding another public comment topic, said he had run a Facebook poll and 76 percent out of about 400 people participating opposed the current city ordinance on medical marijuana.

Other Business

In the reports from city boards and commissions, Stelling reported the ordinance committee had looked at the city’s medical marijuana ordinance and consulted with the city attorney. He said the committee decided not to make any recommendations for changes at present because the state law seems to be “a moving target.” Stelling is chairman of the ordinance committee with Brian Wallis and Chris Eckhardt as members.

Council members accepted the official results of the Aug. 13 GO bond election from the Woods County Election Board.

An agreement with Northwest Technology Center for a school resource officer (SRO) was approved. The SRO will work two hours per day during the school year at Northwest Tech in Alva. The school will reimburse the city at the rate of $35.55 per hour for this service.

The council approved payment of claims totaling $354,286.50 and payroll expenses of $439,008.00 as well as minutes of the July 15 meeting.

During the Alva Utility Authority meeting that followed the city council, trustees approved minutes from July 15, claims of $212,417.33 and payroll expenses of $107,636.

In the Alva Economic Development Authority meeting, members approved claims of $59,397.22, payroll expenses of $24, 335.32 and minutes of the July 15 meeting.

The next regular city council meeting will be on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

 

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