The fight over electric power in Millersburg is about to enter another round. The Millersburg City Council will hold a second public hearing tonight (June 19) on its proposal to kick Pacific Power out, take over the town’s electric system, by condemnation if necessary, and run it as a municipal utility. Pacific Power is expected to use the hearing to drive home its arguments that this venture is already costing Millersburg citizens money and will likely cost them much more later.
The hearing is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Linn County Expo Center. The first one was held May 20, but this one is likely to feature more of a pushback from Pacific than the first.
Pat Reiten, the CEO of Pacific Power, was at the company’s operations center in Millersburg Wednesday talking with various people. In an interview, he reiterated Pacific’s determination to fight the takeover to the very end.
The company has been gathering signatures from Millersburg residents opposed to the takeover. What this suggests is that the utility is prepared to take its case to the voters if the council pushes ahead with the proposal on its own — without an election. The council would probably have to authorize a bond sale in order to launch a condemnation proceeding, and an ordinance to that effect would be subject to a possible referendum to block it or an initiative to repeal it.
On Monday, Pacific made public a timeline of behind-the-scenes discussions about the municipal utility plan involving ATI Wah Chang, the city of Millersburg, a Portland law firm and consultants starting in October 2012. The company made the timeline based on records it obtained from the city under Oregon’s public-records law. “The records show that the plan was intentionally developed out of public view and before the public and Pacific Power were made aware,” Pacific said in a press release.
While the cost of consultants and an outside legal firm working on the plan has been borne by Wah Chang, Millersburg too is feeling the pinch of extra expenses associated with the activity, judging by the city budget. The budgeted expense for the city attorney in the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts July 1, is $150,000, up from $50,000 this year, $20,960 last year and $15,100 in 2011-12. (hh)