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Esto Town Council Advances Proposal for West Florida Electric Coop Franchise Fee

Bidgee, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons Bidgee, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Esto Town Council met on February 20, 2024, to discuss and vote on a new ordinance setting a franchise fee agreement between the Town of Esto and West Florida Electric Cooperative.

The previous franchise fee agreement, established in 2023 with West Florida Electric Cooperative, ended in February. The franchise fee agreement has been important for supporting Esto’s finances. In the 2023 fiscal year the franchise fee brought in $22,601 or 17% of the town’s revenues. West Florida Electric Cooperative is continuing to collect the old 5% fee until a new franchise fee agreement is in place.

Franchise fees are common in towns across the country. They’re charges on utility companies, like electric, gas, or cable providers, for the use of public rights-of-way to deliver their services to residents.

The proposed ordinance for a new agreement suggests increasing the fee from 5% to 6.5% for the next 10 years.  The Town Council believes this change is necessary to support our growing community without putting too much pressure on residents.

During the February 20, 2024, meeting, council members had extensive discussions regarding the proposed ordinance. The council felt a small increase will further help various town plans and services that directly benefit Esto residents. These extra funds will  be used to fix town problems, make necessary repairs quickly, and invest in long-term solutions for a better community.

The next step in the process is the second reading of the ordinance. This is a chance for residents and businesses to share their thoughts before the final decision is made.

Once the proposed ordinance is approved in a second reading by the town council, the new franchise fee agreement will be sent to West Florida Electric Cooperative, whose board will also need to ratify the new rate. With their acceptance of the new agreement, the new franchise fee rate of 6.5% will go into effect for the next 10 years.

As the town keeps discussing this, being transparent and involving the community is important. The Town Council cares about what residents think and wants everyone to understand the possible changes and have a chance to share their thoughts. Decisions about the electric utility franchise fee will have a big impact on our town’s money and quality of life. The proposed fee increase is about being responsible with money while still providing reliable and sustainable energy services. Your support and participation in local decision-making are crucial as we work together to make our town even better.

Story Image: Bidgee, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons