CHEYENNE — For the first time, the Cheyenne city council voted last night to approve a 25-year franchise agreement with a company other than Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power.
High West Energy Inc., as a non-profit co-op owned by its customer-members headquartered in Pine Bluffs, will bring with it to Cheyenne a different structure than Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power, which unanimously received a franchise renewal during the same meeting. However, the new franchise agreement will not allow consumers to choose from which company they receive power, according to a representative of Cheyenne Light.
High West has specialized in serving the rural communities surrounding Cheyenne in Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, where it ironically lacked a franchise agreement until last night.
"Since 1942, High West Energy has owned and operated infrastructure throughout the region, including a substation and electric lines inside the city of Cheyenne," the company's website states.
Unlike Cheyenne Light, the decision to allow High West's franchise in the city of Cheyenne was not unanimous. It passed by an 8-2 vote, according to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, with dissenting votes from Mayor Rick Kaysen and Councilman Mark Rinne.
While Rinne said he didn't see it as an improvement on what Cheyenne Light had in place already, Kaysen objected on grounds that the co-op opted out of rate-change reviews through the Public Service Commission, which governs utilities in the Equality State.
High West Manager Brian Heithoff said in a phone interview that the co-op has more safeguards without the Public Service Commission than even the Board of Public Utilities has for water in the city. He said a couple years ago the co-op's members voted unanimously to shift rate-change power into the hands of the board of directors, who are also subscribers to the co-op's electric service.
"Basically what they were saying is we trust our board," Heithoff said.
Additionally, Heithoff said the 3 percent franchise agreement isn't so much about expansion as it is retention. Right now, the company serves 14 customer-members inside Cheyenne boundaries near the Saddle Ridge housing development.
"If we didn't have a franchise, the 14 accounts would involuntarily revert over to Cheyenne Light, and a majority wanted to stay with us," Heithoff said.
The co-op must now make it past the Public Service Commission to be fully fledged for service. Heithoff expects the process to take a couple more months.
(1/18/2013: Corrected to indicate that consumers will not have a choice as to which company they use after franchising is complete.)
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