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Marion City Council Exploring Utility Takeover

Updated: Monday, July 15 2013, 10:59 PM CDT
MARION, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- What will a possible Marion utility takeover mean for you?

“Over time, the idea is that they can save substantial amounts of money,” Marion City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said.

According to a feasibility study, the city would save more than $200 million over the next 25 years by taking over the city’s utilities from Alliant energy. Pluckhahn says other cities have thrived on the concept.

“Cedar Falls, Muscatine, Ames...all of them are at least 25% below the rates we're paying right now.”

One big reason why the council is mulling it over is because the power would be in the city's hands - in more ways than one.

“No shareholders or anything to answer to, you don't have to provide any dividends to your stockholders,” Pluckhahn said.

The result, he says, is a system with less corporate oversight.

“Instead of having to have your rates set by a board that sits in Des Moines, you got a city council.”

It may allow more projects in sustainability and infrastructure.

“We'd be a lot more aggressive in putting power lines underground,” Pluckhahn said.

Not everyone sees the numbers the same way.

“Our system is not for sale,” Alliant spokesman Ryan Stensland said.

Stensland says the company's independent studies on the proposal don't show a rate decrease.

“Their rates would increase by 40 million dollars over those 25 years,” Stensland said.

He says the city's independent study didn't consider all factors.

“Their study assumes a different inflation rate for our company vs. a community,” Stensland said.

Pluckhahn disputes that claim, and questions Alliant's study.

“When you hire somebody whose job it is to find out why the study is wrong, they'll find ways to tell you why the study is wrong,” Pluckhahn said.

Stensland says there is one major obstacle the city faces.

“No experience in managing a utility system of this magnitude,” Stensland said,

He says the company is looking out for the city’s best interest.

“We don't want to see the community go down this bunny trail and pursue something… that at the end of the day isn't going be there.”

If passed, it would be the state’s first municipal utility since the 1970’s. Due to city council elections this fall, Pluckhahn said they will continue to do more research until elections are over and the council is set. The city might not take action on the proposal until early next year.Marion City Council Exploring Utility Takeover

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