Adam Catlin
Wellington Daily News
When one gazes out at the area of Boundary and Highway 160, all that can be seen is open farmland. In a matter of a few years, though, all of that could change dramatically. With the new Cowley College campus beginning to open up later this year, and the possibility of a new hospital close by, it could get very busy out there, or so it is hoped.
On February 6th, according to the minutes of the council meeting, City Manager Shields addressed the two letters of correspondence to and from Sumner Cowley Electric that were in the Consent Agenda. They have submitted a request for a franchise agreement for them to continue to serve a property in their service territory that is vacant bare ground. He continued thereis a statute in place KSA 66-1176 that requires when a City annexes land that is located within a certifiedterritory of a retail electric supplier, the City shall negotiate for the issuance of a franchise a retail electricsupplier holding a certificate within the annexed area. The statue provides that the City will have the finalselection of which supplier receives the franchise to operate in that annexed area or if the City will servicethe area. There are nine factors to be considered. We have asked that Sumner Cowley Electric provide aproposal for serving the area and ask that they address the nine factors. He told a Work Session will needto be called to discuss this when an answer is received.
Unfortunately for Sumner-Cowley Electric, the council denied Mr. Rains’ request, by a 4-3 vote, at the March 20th city council meeting. Council Members Kip Etter, Kelly Hawley and Kevin Dodds voted to deny the request to issue a franchise agreement while Council Members Joe Soria, Jim Valentine and Jennifer Heersche voted to approve it. Mayor Shelley Hansel cast the deciding vote and voted for the denial, thus giving the city the electric service authority.
According to City Manager Shane Shields, “the city will serve the property that has been annexed into the city. The northeast corner of US 160 and Boundary was annexed in 2007, about a 2.5 acre tract. The northwest corner of about the same size was annexed in November of last year.”  When asked why the City of Wellington was the best option, Shields replied, “In this particular instance, the request from Sumner-Cowley for consideration of a franchise agreement was due to the most recent annexation in November 2017.  Per statute, there are a number of factors the City must consider in determining who the electric supplier will be for the annexed property.”
Shields wrote that according to a staff report providing information on those factors for the Council’s consideration, it was found that the city would provide a fixed cost of $17.75, while Sumner-Cowley’s rate would be $40.00.  The report also states that Mrs. Joyce Cox, the only owner on the property was asked which provider she wished to go with, and she made her choice to go with the city.  As to the economic impact on the supplier, the report states that ‘If the city does not supply electric service to the annexed property, the city will not have the potential opportunity to add a new electric customer, thereby not gaining additional revenue to support the overall city utility system, which includes electric, water, and sewer.’
This report was provided to the council at the work session held on March 5.  The Council made the decision at the March 20, regular meeting that a franchise would not be granted to Sumner-Cowley.  Therefore, the City will provide electric service to the property.”
Council Member Kevin Dodds says that at the time it was “not necessarily a very easy decision, but the best one for the city overall.  If you were a developer building a new business, would you prefer to deal with one entity for your billing instead of multiple entities?  I would expect the full services the city has to offer if I were a developer or opening a new business in town.”
For Council Member Joseph Soria, he believes that “as far as SCE, they already have infrastructure in place, why have duplication? They are willing to pay  3.5 percent of income to the city. This would have been good profit for both sides. It’s time to work together.  Why have two entities doing the same thing?”
We attempted to contact Sumner-Cowley CEO Mr. Rains, and were told that Sumner-Cowley Electric will be issuing a statement at a later date.