Council gets advice on reforming electric department

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 17, 2007

FRANKLIN—Lending some insight to a recent electric department discussion at the City Council meeting, Franklin resident June Fleming, who is a former city manager of Palo Alto, Calif., said she was concerned with the discussion.

The California city owned all of its utilities except telephone service. Palo Alto, with a population of slightly more than 60,000, had a huge utility, she said, run by an advisory commission, which reported directly to the city council.

&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 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 the vice mayor, 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.

&uot;We were working in a different financial environment than you are here,&uot; she said.

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 to hire an entire legal staff.

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

The point is, she said, regarding the utility on the West Coast, that it was a &uot;governmental structure that wanted the citizens’ input. And whatever that commission recommended, it went directly to city council.&uot;