Electric department leader: Get our input

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FRANKLIN—It seems that the City Council has kept Franklin Power & Light in the dark regarding recent electric department issues, according to Dave Howe, director of FP&L.

Howe addressed the council during its Monday night discussion about the department, which was carried over from November’s meeting.

Members of council were first focusing on considering the possibility of the electric department being established as an independent commission.

Howe stepped to the podium and reminded councilmen and the city manager that he had submitted a policy procedures manual on how to run a public power utility.

&uot;We wouldn’t have these people here speaking,&uot; he said, &uot;if you just followed these guidelines. It would make it go away.&uot;

Howe questioned council members about the lack of inclusion of his own department in the matters as well.

&uot;If you’re getting citizens’ input (on this matter), why not include the input of the electric department?&uot; he asked.

&uot;You’re not including us, and we are the ones out there and who know what’s going on. We’re in the dark through this whole issue. It’s just not right.

&uot;I trust we’ll have some input before you reach a final decision,&uot; he said.

In the agenda was information about the electric department in response to some points brought up by a citizens group. The document was distributed to members during the council’s recent retreat.

In regard to the document, which states that council sees no benefit to the electric department operations changing control, Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson noted that she didn’t remember council deciding that.

She said, &uot;I publicly stated that I could see not implementing one now, but I didn’t say there was no interest.

&uot;I said that because of the struggle that it may cause between the council and the commission. I just think we need to get our policies in place first.&uot;

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard agreed that council hadn’t discussed the issue.

Mayor Jim Councill said although it was not voted on, many discussions had taken place and that &uot;the consensus was that there was not substantial interest in it.&uot;

City Manager Bucky Taylor reminded the council that the document was only a draft and was to serve as a &uot;starting point for modification.&uot;

Finance Director Andy Rose had presented drafts of some policies regarding how all city funds should be handled.

Franklin resident June Fleming, who has managed a city with a utility run by both a commission and council, said she was concerned with the discussion.

&uot;You have to be clear about your focus, objectives and goals, and how you’re going to achieve them,&uot; she said.

She also told members that the issue carries a lot of weight and to not to take the concept lightly.

&uot;I truly believe in citizens’ input in government,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s crucial. Please be clear, transparent about what you’re trying to accomplish so that everyone understands and citizens have the opportunity to be involved.&uot;

Matters, she said in response to questions from Johnson, were first taken to the commission and then to council, allowing citizens the chance to speak &uot;at two different levels.&uot;

The commission was allowed to borrow from the enterprise fund, she said, but never did because the utility was self-supporting.

It was not allowed, however, to transfer money from one fund to another.

Fleming said she also realized that utilities are complex and that the legal involvement was &uot;tremendous,&uot; which may mean a lot of added costs for legal staff.

&uot;It was also very difficult to find interested and qualified people to serve on the commission,&uot; she said.