A special election is set for Hailey voters on Tuesday, May 21, to decide whether to increase electric utility franchise fees by 2 percent to help pay for maintenance of city infrastructure.

City staff will hold an open house to answer any questions about the ballot measure on Thursday, May 16, from 5-5:30 p.m. at the City Hall council chambers.

The ballot measure would increase the monthly franchise fee charged to Idaho Power from 1 percent to 3 percent, an additional cost that would be passed on to Hailey ratepayers.

The ballot measure requires a simple majority vote to succeed. It will ask, “Shall the Idaho Power franchise fee be increased from one percent to three percent for the purpose of maintenance and improvements to critical infrastructure and public streets, rights-of-way, sidewalks, bike/pedestrian infrastructure and other streetscape components within Hailey?”

City Administrator Heather Dawson said in an interview that the new funding could be used on city buildings.

“Although our biggest need is for street maintenance, the funding could also be used on buildings critical for the operation of the city,” Dawson said.

The current Idaho Power franchise fee brings in $60,000 per year to the city. If successful, the measure would increase the funding to $180,000 and cost electricity bill payers an additional $2 per every $100 billed each month.

The City Council recently approved the ballot initiative and rejected the idea of a property tax increase for a new town square and other city projects, at least until work has been completed on projects supported by a two-year, $400,000 property tax levy passed by Hailey voters in 2016.

According to a memo issued by city staff, after $100,000 has been spent from the two-year Pathways for People property tax increase, “there are still many sidewalks to fix.”

“Elected officials of Hailey have identified through a survey, a town hall meeting and public hearings that improved maintenance of existing infrastructure is the most important element to Hailey residents and businesses,” the memo states.

The memo says the franchise fee increase would provide a funding stream that could help the city qualify for a grant to help pay for a partly funded upgrade to four blocks of River Street.

The city currently receives a 3 percent franchise fee from Intermountain Gas, a 5 percent franchise fee from Cox Cable T.V. and a 6 percent franchise fee from Clear Creek Disposal, totaling $230,000 annually.

Early voting is already in progress at the Blaine County Courthouse on the first floor through Friday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information and precinct voting locations go to co.blaine.id.us/196/Elections.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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