A rather routine order of business, renewing the franchise for KCP&L to provide electricity to customers in the city, divided both the Roeland Park City Council and its constituents. A final proposal will include a host of fee exemptions that now exist.
The franchise agreement, besides granting KCP&L the franchise to provide service to customers and to use the streets and alleys in the city for that purpose, sets out that KCP&L will charge those customers a franchise fee and turn that money over to the city. The practice is common as is the five percent charge that customers pay.
The dispute in Roeland Park centered on exemptions from the fee. The 20-year agreement coming to an end had exempted city and county government, schools, churches, utilities and non-profits. Granting those exemptions costs the city more than $44,000 per year in fees it would collect, although the fees the city would charge itself are a wash and run more than $10,000 of the total.
When KCP&L brought the franchise agreement to the city for renewal, its representative explained that almost all cities in Johnson County have done away with the exemptions. Most of the disagreement focused on whether churches and private schools should be exempt. In the discussion that has bridged several weeks and three meetings, Bishop Miege and St. Agnes were the two most often mentioned exemptions in the discussion. St. Agnes sent a representative to speak to the council in January, asking for the exemption to stay.
The council heard from constituents at its last meeting, some on both sides of the issue, as were the council members. The council was almost evenly divided among proposals to keep all exemptions, remove all exemptions or to exempt only churches.
Megan England and Jennifer Gunby argued for removing all exemptions. England said everyone should be paying for the services they use, such as police protection. Gunby said the issue seemed to come down to just the few churches and schools and that removing exemptions would bring the KCP&L franchise in line with how the city treated its other utility franchises.
Sheri McNeil, Teresa Kelly and Becky Fast all were willing to give the exemptions to churches and remove the other entities. Mel Croston favored keeping all the exemptions and Marek Gliniecki advocated for exemptions for all non-profits. Councilor Robert Myers was not present.
The council narrowed the options in tandem votes first by eliminating the ‘no exemptions’ option and then voted to keep all exemptions over churches only. The recommendation that will be drafted for formal adoption will allow exemptions to the fee for all of the current entities, including all non-profits.
The new agreement will be for only a five-year period.