A mail-in vote to change all franchise votes

Election in Durango set for July 31

On July 31, the city of Durango will ask voters to clean up a perceived injustice in the city charter. The mail-in election could impact all future franchise votes.

Voters would remove the restrictions that limit votes on city franchises to property owners who are registered to vote in Durango.

These qualifications are believed to have contributed to the defeat of the La Plata Electric Association franchise agreement this spring because renters could not participate.

Nor could residents whose property is owned by a trust, such as City Councilor Dick White.

Councilor Paul Broderick estimated that half of city voters were excluded from the franchise vote in April.

The irony is that most renters have electric bills in their names.

Unlike the franchise vote, all voters registered in Durango could participate in the July 31 election to change the city charter, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.

Ballots were mailed Friday. If a voter does not receive a ballot by Tuesday, a ballot can requested at City Hall.

On election day, July 31, the clerk’s office will have extended hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The midsummer vote then could set up a do-over election in November on the franchise agreement with LPEA.

The loss of the 20-year LPEA franchise agreement has put a $20 million hole in the city’s budget over 20 years.

Under a franchise agreement, the city had charged LPEA with a 4.67 percent franchise fee, which LPEA had passed on to consumers on their electric bills.

The City Council has not officially decided about another vote on an LPEA franchise agreement. Some details of a new franchise agreement still must be finalized, such as how to calculate the franchise fee.

Officials have discussed basing the franchise fee only on consumers’ electricity charges, rather than all LPEA charges.

The City Council would need to have public hearings about the proposed agreement in August in order to make a Sept. 10 deadline for submitting ballot language to the county elections office.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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