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Steve Duncan appointed to City Council

Council considers utility franchise for Alliant Energy

SOLON– The Solon City Council appointed Steve Duncan to fill the vacant council seat created when Steve Stange was appointed mayor.
“We’ve had a vacancy (on the council),” began Stange. “One of my goals was to try and find somebody that was kind of keeping up on what’s going on in the city, and has been active in our council meetings. I was looking for somebody that was in an area that is under development.”
“I approached Steve Duncan who ran for school board in the past,” said Stange.
Duncan is a former teacher, retired school administrator, and assistant coach with the Solon High School varsity baseball team. He has been a resident of Solon since 2009, is a former coach at the University of Iowa, and was hired by the Solon school district to oversee the fundraising efforts for Spartan Stadium.
“Steve comes with some knowledge in the school system,” continued Stange. “He was an administrator for West Des Moines for several years, so he comes with a lot of budget experience, a lot of administrative experience. He has grandchildren in this community. His son-in-law is a life-long resident of this community. He is a current home owner in Fox Ridge.”
“I discussed this with you all individually to see if that was a person you would be interested in,” Stange said, describing the selection process.
“At this time I am asking if you would like to fill the vacancy with him,” he concluded.
Council appointed Duncan to the city council unanimously. He was expected to take the oath of office this week.
Council also held a public hearing and first reading of an ordinance which would grant Alliant Energy a 25-year, non-exclusive franchise for electrical service to the city at its regular meeting on Wednesday, June 4.
Al Wells of Wells Homes, LLC, had presented a 30-page objection to Alliant Energy’s continued service to the city, a copy of which he furnished to the Economist.
Wells owns the Palmer House Stable Arts and Events Center at 102 N. Dubuque St. He had approached Alliant about securing electrical service, and had submitted a site plan to the utility.
Alliant requested an easement on Wells’ property and explained their plans for the area surrounding his property in an on-site meeting. The work was to include upgrades that affected at least five properties in addition to his. There was neither a written description of the work presented to Wells, nor a cost estimate or description of who would pay for the upgrades. It turned out Wells was responsible for the whole bill, in an amount greater than $18,000, according to documents submitted to the council.
“When I purchased Bob’s DX we had electric service with Alliant,” said Wells to begin his public comment. “With my site plan I was going to add a building in the front and a building in the back, and the site plan was approved.”
“If everybody remembers what that looked like back there (in 2007), it was a nightmare,” Wells continued. “They had power lines wrapped around the deck into the 206 building. They were wrapped to the trees. At the same time, Alliant said the transformers on the poles that were rotten, and were so out of date they needed to update their equipment. That’s fine with me,” said Wells.
Wells believed it was Alliant’s job to replace the antiquated equipment without charges. A year later they sent the bill for the repairs because no electrical usage meters were installed on Wells’ buildings. The matter eventually went to court, according to Wells, where the judge ruled in Alliant’s favor. Wells’ company was liable for the expense.
Based on his experience, Wells recommended the city table the proposed ordinance. Stange explained that council was performing the first of three readings of the ordinance, and tabling it was out of order.
“Can I ask a question?” asked Wells. “Have we looked at MidAmerican (Energy) for power since they already supply the gas?”
“What’s your opinion on our relationship with Alliant over the years?” asked Councilor Brad Kunkel of Public Works Director Scott Kleppe.
“I think we have a great working relationship with Alliant,” Kleppe replied.
“That’s always the impression I’ve got,” said Kunkel.
Chris Gibson, a representative from Alliant Energy, was present at the meeting, but declined to comment until checking with his company’s legal counsel about Wells’ concerns. He asked for a copy of the document submitted to council and Wells’ contact information. Gibson suggested he would get back to Wells within a week.
The first reading of the ordinance was approved unanimously.
In other business, Stange reported that the May 25 firefighter’s breakfast served over 2,400 people; and council approved a renewal application by Big Grove Brewery for a liquor license; and an application for a block party on Ground Plum Circle.
Kleppe reported hiring Connor Wiseman of Solon for a summer labor position; and the purchase of a new oven for the Timber Dome lodge from Foster Appliance. Council members also approved the third readings of ordinances amending sewer and water rates.
The next city regular city council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 18, at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.