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Letter to the Editor: Vote YES on Nov. 7

October 13, 2017
Citizens for Traer's Future - Traer, Iowa , Traer Star-Clipper

CITIZENS FOR TRAER'S FUTURE. We're a group of Traer citizens who believe that LOCAL ownership and operation of the gas utility franchise is in the best interest of our community's future.

The city of Traer is currently considering to undertake the process to reassert control of the natural gas franchise in town. The primary reason to do so is to keep the profit margin that the investor owned utility currently takes out of state and keep those proceeds here in Traer. Additionally, we believe service could be improved by having local control in the operation of the gas system.

THE PROCESS - Due to the monopolistic structure of the utilities industry in Iowa, the Iowa legislature created a mechanism for citizens to gain control of a utility franchise. Citizens can vote to create a municipal utility, such as Traer has done, and use a condemnation process prescribed in law, to take local ownership of the specific utility franchise and pay the investor-owned utility a fair market value as determined through the condemnation proceedings. One part of the legal condemnation process requires the citizens to have a majority vote in favor of the municipal operation of the franchise to proceed with the transition. That is why a YES vote on November 7 is imperative.

There are many questions and concerns voiced amongst our community with regards to this gas franchise issue. We will attempt to clarify them here. Additional information can be found on our website at

PIPELINE OWNERSHIP - The pipes that Alliant owns are the same ones we will own. We will simply be taking over ownership of Traer's existing pipeline system. In the future, providing pipeline and gas service to new housing additions is typically the responsibility of the developer and winds up being included in the cost of the housing lot.

PIPELINE & SYSTEM CONDITIONS - As we heard in the recent town hall meeting, Dave Hraha and Nick Vandergriff, with the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, explained that all utilities are REQUIRED by federal regulation to provide and maintain cathodic protection for steel pipe lines. With this protection in place there is no known life span for steel pipes (meaning the existing pipes show no signs of deterioration). Also a speaker at the meeting, Dale Oltmans, City Administrator from Alton, IA., stated that the pipes that have been in the ground since 1954 are in as good of condition now, as when they were installed. Federal regulation also requires inspections of the pipelines every 12-15 months and records have been maintained to assure our system is in good condition. We have every reason to believe Alliant has properly maintained the gas lines. Hypothetically, if Alliant is not properly maintaining the system, do you really want them to continue to operate such a critical utility in Traer?

GAS PURCHASING & PRICING - Traer will join with a consortium of 43 other municipal utilities around Iowa. Gas supply is obtained for these utilities by a company that has a track record of providing wholesale gas at prices that are extremely competitive. They purchase their gas from the same suppliers as Alliant at similar prices.

OPERATION, EMPLOYEES & EQUIPMENT - The gas utility will be operated by TMU (Traer Municipal Utilities) using the same employees and equipment that are in place today. Our employees will undergo training and qualifications by the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities which is the same training as Alliant employees are required to do. The equipment we currently have for the electric and water utilities will also be used for the gas system. We have locators, backhoe, trencher, skid loader, trucks, manpower, computers, billing system and knowledge to run the system.

SAFETY & TRAINING - Employee training and safety standards are established by federal DOT standards. Alliant and Traer employees are held to the same standards. TMU is a member of the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities (IAMU), a state association that has developed and continually offers nationally recognized training. Traer will take advantage of this top notch training. Safety standards and practices will be upheld by regular IAMU membership training which complies with standards set by the DOT and meets the OSHA and other regulatory requirements.

BILLING & REBATES - TMU has budget billing available to assist with leveling payments throughout the year. Just stop in the Traer Municipal Utilities office and tell them how you'd like to set it up. TMU will have the control/authority to offer rebate programs just like the ones currently in place including home insulation and sealing, natural gas furnaces, furnace tune-ups, programmable thermostats, new home construction and water heating.

OUTAGES & EMERGENCIES - Just as with an electric outage or water leak, TMU will have LOCAL people to respond usually within 20 minutes or less. And, just like we do today when we respond to utility issues, there is NO charge. These types of incidents are very infrequent, but we maintain an on-call staff at all times.

The bottom line is that the citizens of Traer will notice no immediate change to the natural gas service except for the billing from Alliant to TMU. The system operation will be the same with the gas purchased from the same suppliers, through the same pipes according to the same regulations. Employee training and system maintenance will all be the same according to state and federal regulation to ensure public safety. The difference over time is that as the city pays off the franchise, your rates, which will stay competitive, will likely become even more favorable as TMU is not allowed to budget profits into your bill.

There is one more variable to consider, and that is the price of purchasing the infrastructure from Alliant. While both Alliant and Traer have differing values to the cost, the only way to get a firm purchase price is to go through the court process to determine an objective price. If the price is too high, Traer can always stop the process and back out. If it's a good price, the citizens of Traer should be eager to make this long-term investment. However, there is no way to know if it's a good deal or not without first starting the process. To do that, we are asking for you to vote YES on November 7 and support local ownership of the gas franchise in Traer.

We believe that Traer can and should own and operate the gas franchise in town. Traer Municipal Utilities has demonstrated a long track record of excellent service and competitive pricing operating other utilities and can do the same with the gas system.


Citizens For Traer's Future


Citizens for

Traer's Future

Traer, Iowa



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