The City of Williamston held their regular City Council Agenda Meeting on Oct. 8 to discuss the rundown of pending issues and topics of debate amongst the public.
Residents of Williamston actively participated in the city council’s discussions ranging from various police and community events, the renaming process of one Deer Creek Park, and the Consumers Energy Franchise Agreement Ordinance.
Williamston City Council, along with any interested residents, convened in an effort to vote on the retention of the Consumers Energy Franchise Agreement.
When Mayor Tammy Gilroy put the item to a vote, it was a sure unanimous decision in favor of retaining Consumers Energy as the city’s natural gas franchise provider.The Michigan constitution requires the utility to have a franchise to operate within the public right away, which would be parks and roads in a city.
Members of the council and residents voted on the decision to retain Consumers Energy as the franchise provider of the city of Williamston, a process that needs to be renewed every 30 years with a city.
For Consumers Energy to be able to officially operate its system in the city, they need to have the franchise to be able to do so. A franchise provider is eligible as the city’s provider for a maximum of 30 years before needing to be voted to have their services with the city renewed.
“Every 30 years we have to go back and renew our franchise with the city,” Consumers Energy Community Affairs Manager Chris Thelen said.
“The city could turn down our services if they wanted to, but we’d be able to still serve our existing customers,” Thelen said
Consumers Energy covers the entire Lower Peninsula, having more than 1,000 franchises through every city, every township and every jurisdiction, providing natural gas distribution to the whole city of Williamston.
Dating back 100 years ago, the state’s goal was to implement a system that the local government could control what’s in their road right away, so all of the power lines, it would have a say in that.
“Any work that we do we needs a permit from the city to operate on the gas lines,” Thelen said.
“This way it gives the city a say in how the utilities will operate.”
“My family has been Consumer’s customers for as long as I can remember,” Williamston resident Lisa Tartaglione said.
“As a resident of this town I think if I have a say in a decision that’s to be made, I would like to be there to talk about it,” Tartaglione said.
Despite Williamston’s sole natural gas provider being Consumers Energy, it is part of a non-exclusivity deal, stating that other companies are allowed to have their services offered to the city, if they choose. The major reason for Consumers being the only provider is the fact that it install their own gas lines as well as service them.
“What it does from a city’s standpoint is it takes the cost out of play,” Mayor Pro-Term Sean Bertolino said. “If a gas line breaks, that’s not on the city, but that’s on Consumers hands to take care of.”
Bertolino said there’s a tradeoff with having Consumers independently service Williamston, they have access to the city’s right of ways that most other companies wouldn’t have.
“It’s kind of a win-win for Consumers getting to service Williamston independently,” Bertolino said.
“Williamston gets the win because we don’t have to worry about servicing gas lines and subsequent issues with residents.”
Bertolino said because of Consumers franchise with Williamston, it saves the city money and time that can be devoted to more pertinent issues facing the city. It benefits the company by getting the opportunity to be the sole service provider to the city.
Bertolino points to the size of Williamston and lack of revenue sources to have their own utility center to go ahead and install gas lines, requiring maintenance on a daily basis. Bertolino sees using a company like Consumers Energy as the easiest option to receive natural gas distribution, especially for the smaller city that Williamston is.
Williamston’s City Council meets every second and fourth Monday of the month, at 7 p.m., unless otherwise stated. Each meeting is open for public participation.