Decorah Power has received a $13,400 Rural Business Development grant to help offset the cost of a feasibility study to explore the option of Decorah establishing its own municipal electric utility.
The city utility would provide electricity services in the same way that it provides water and sewer services. Currently the community is served by Alliant Energy, a Madison, Wis. investor-owned utility, under a 25-year franchise agreement that expires in June 2018.
Decorah Power is a local non-profit established earlier this year to explore the electrical municipality option. In March, the City Council placed a moratorium on franchise negotiations with Alliant, approved of Decorah Power conducting a feasibility study with privately raised funds and appointed Council member Steve Luse as liaison to Decorah Power. The feasibility study is under way and is expected to be completed before the end of the year.
If the study comes back with positive findings for the community, Decorah Power will ask the city to place a public referendum on the ballot sometime in the spring. If Decorah voters approve the referendum, the Decorah City Council would have the option of petitioning the Iowa Utilities Board with an application to establish its own municipal electric utility.
“We are glad to receive this grant and the affirmation it represents,” said Decorah Power President Larry Grimstad. “These funds will be put to good use as we explore the possibility of a community owned electric utility. It is critical to hire an experienced, highly qualified firm to perform the feasibility study so this grant comes at a really good time.”
The Rural Business Development Grant program is designed to provide financial assistance to a variety of “technical assistance, training or others activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas which will employ 50 or fewer employees,” according to the USDA’s website. The program is open to a wide variety of applicants including communities, state agencies, nonprofits and institutions of higher education.