Nearly 68 percent of Hailey voters who turned out Tuesday supported a ballot measure that will bring a 2 percent increase in electric utility franchise fees to help pay for repair and maintenance of streets, sidewalks and other important infrastructure.

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

“We extend our gratitude to all the Hailey citizens who took time to vote on the Idaho Power franchise fee increase. It’s very important for people to vote on public funding issues,” Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said.

Only 8.5 percent of Hailey’s 4,316 registered voters turned out for the election. Of 367 ballots cast, 248 (67.57 percent) were in favor of the franchise fee increase, while 119 (32.43 percent) were against it. The election results are unofficial until final canvassing of votes Tuesday by the Blaine County commissioners.

“We are pleased that the vote on the franchise fee increase was passed,” Haemmerle said. “The additional $120,000 the city will realize from the fee increase will result in significant changes in the maintenance and care of city infrastructure.”

Public Works Director Brian Yeager has stated that in addition to providing funding for existing infrastructure, the franchise fee increase would also 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.

In addition to the Idaho franchise fee, the city receives a 3 percent franchise fee from Intermountain Gas, a 5 percent fee from Cox Cable and a 6 percent fee from Clear Creek Disposal, totaling $230,000 annually.

As a result of the successful ballot initiative, the city will now receive a total of $350,000 each year from franchise fees.

Haemmerle took the opportunity following the successful initiative to encourage Hailey residents to further participate in the public process.

“The manner in which the city spends money remains an important issue,” he said. “As we do every year at this time of year, we encourage public participation in our budget process. Last year, our budget was adopted after six City Council meetings in which the public was invited to participate, but very few people attended our meetings and commented.”

The city’s budget hearings will begin on June 24 and continue through Sept. 17.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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