5/3/2016 – 10:37 pm
After much debate and discussion over the past couple of months, the Findlay City Council voted to reject a proposal brought by Hancock-Wood Electric CO-OP to modify their franchise agreement with the City of Findlay.
At issue was a situation in which Hancock-Wood wished for clarification as to their rights to operate in Findlay city limits. In rural areas, electric utilities are divided among territories, and different utility companies are permitted to only service their own territories. But when the City of Findlay annexed rural property into the city limits, it brought in territory that was serviced by Hancock-Wood.
American Electric Power (AEP) is permitted to supply service to customers within all city limits, and Hancock-Wood is permitted to service customers within their previous territory boundaries. In the past, when a situation would develop that made their service areas intersect, both utilities would negotiate with each other and work out a service agreement. One might take a load from a customer in exchange for an equal load elsewhere and they would swap services.
The issue at hand arose when the Romark company contracted with AEP to deliver services to their plant in Findlay. That plant is in Hancock-Wood service territory. At the time, Hancock-Wood was not in a position to adequately supply needed services to Rowmark, but they have since made that investment. They wanted to be able to negotiate with Rowmark for cheaper utility rates. AEP serviced the customer without a territorial swap with Hancock-Wood.
While both sides have said that this issue would be brought before the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, (PUCO) that board would be looking for direction from the City of Findlay as to their intent on rules for both utilities operations in Findlay. Hancock-Wood asked the Findlay City Council if it could state that the intent was for the utilities to operate under the previous territory agreements.
The measure was barely defeated on its third reading by a vote of six to four. On the yes side, Councilman Jeff Wobser said that his initial intent was to vote against the measure, but after hearing from representatives from AEP state that should a similar situation like this happen in the future, they would do the same again, his mind was changed.
Audio: Jeff Wobser
On the no side, Councilman Grant Russel said that he believed that the existing agreements were sufficient to address how both utilities should operate in the city limits, and he noted that his no vote was not to disagree with Hancock-Wood. Indeed, Russel said that he was disappointed that AEP chose, in this one case, to operate contrary to what had historically been established business practices for both utilities.
Audio: Grant Russel
Russel said afterward that if Hancock-Wood wanted a representative from the City Council to testify to PUCO about the intent of the current franchise agreements, he would be available to do so. Hancock-Wood stated previously that the dispute would be resolved by PUCO. They had only asked the city to modify their own franchise agreement to reflect existing territories. The matter will now have to be decided by PUCO.
Hancock-Wood stated previously that the dispute would be resolved by PUCO. They had only asked the city to modify their own franchise agreement to reflect existing territorial boundaries. The dispute will now have to be decided by PUCO.
WFIN spoke with Hancock-Wood CEO George Walton Wednesday morning. Walton said that while they were disappointed with the council’s decision, they appreciated the comments from members indicating that they wished to see both utilities operate as they had done so previously. As to where they go from this point, Walton said they would be exploring options.
Audio: George WaltonRead More →