Rockton trustees balk at fee and tax on co-op

February 3, 2010

By Stuart R. Wahlin

Staff Writer

ROCKTON, Ill.—The Rockton Village Board of Trustees voted 4-2 Feb. 1 against a proposed ordinance that would have imposed an infrastructure and maintenance fee on the Rock Energy Cooperative of Janesville, Wis., which provides electric and natural gas utilities to the village.

“Yes” votes by trustees Scott Fridly and Dave Winters were outnumbered by “no” votes from Josh Brown, Laura Bloodworth, Trisha Davey and John Peterson.

A second ordinance to impose a tax on the cooperative subsequently died for lack of a motion.

Although the cooperative was the target of the proposed tax and fee, the cost would likely have been passed on to village residents, but Village President Dale Adams told The Rock River Times the tax and fee would benefit the community in the long term.

“I can understand the gas tax being passed on, but supposedly the infrastructure on electricity is not supposed to be passed on,” he explained. “But how do you police that? How do we know? That’s like saying all this money that Rock Energy is paying for lawyers to prolong this contract dispute is not being borne by the residents of Rockton, by the electricity users. And, of course, it probably is, because any expense is probably passed on to the consumers.”

As a result of a 2005 referendum supporting Rockton’s purchase of the utility’s local distribution systems, Rock Energy and the village have been in litigation since 2007, meaning village residents are also footing the bill for Rockton’s legal expenses.

“I am concerned about the amount of money that’s been spent on pursuing the electric company,” Trustee Davey said, noting trustees were not provided information about the ordinances until “the final hour.”

Despite the 4-2 vote, Adams said he hopes the ordinances make it back to the floor.

“I certainly will try to re-educate the trustees to make sure that all their questions were answered. I thought, going in, that that was the case,” he indicated. “We had support there in the past, and I was real surprised at the way the vote went. So, apparently, there’s still some unanswered questions, and we’ll see that those questions are answered and, hopefully, we’ll be able to try again.”

Should the ordinances fail again, Adams noted, “The alternative is that multi-million-dollar-a-year electric utility in Rockton gets a free ride on the back of the Rockton residents.”

From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.

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