By Lucas Lord
The Butler City Council discussed expanding electrical service to residents outside of city limits during its regular meeting Nov. 2.
Councilman Mike Irick and City Attorney Sara Carnes reported they have been working with Chance Hedrick who lives in Evergreen Estates outside the city limits, but is interested in getting utilities from the city. While some members of the council are wanting to provide the service, Carnes expressed concern about the legality. She said the way the city ordinance is written may conflict with state law.
She said the city’s ordinance “Talks about extension of utilities outside city limits.”
She said, “For sewer and water, it isn’t a problem. For electric, it’s a little bit different. In state law it is stated that no municipality can extend its electric service outside of city limits.”
Carnes said there are four exemptions. One is if it was done before 1991 which doesn’t apply to this case. The second is the city has a territorial agreement with the current electrical company in the area, which is Osage Electric company and the city doesn’t have that. Third is if they are provided electricity by another electric company that bumps up to the city boundaries, but that company discontinues service and the fourth is annexation which can’t be done because the property is not contiguous to city boundaries.
“So, there are zero ways we can provide them electricity legally,” Carnes said.
She noted there are several spots throughout Butler that are currently provided electricity outside of the city’s official boundaries. While she said this hasn’t been an issue yet, it could become one in the future. She said the city should work to make agreements with those property owners as soon as possible and to work on remedying existing violations.
“In the meantime, I can fix the city code, so it is in line with state law. There is a section that talks about voluntary annexation, but it is bad,” Carnes said. “For water and sewer services, we can definitely enter into land agreements outside city limits to provide them those services in hopes that if and when their property becomes contiguous to the city’s property you would annex in, but that is just water and sewer, not electric.”
While many on the council wanted to proceed with supplying power regardless Councilman Tim Young said it is important they get things right the first time.
“Another way I see it is that we weren’t doing it right before and it was kind of sketchy,” Young said. “If we just go ahead and disregard everything and something happens, then we are all going down for it and it’s going to cost the city more money, time and resources because we didn’t do things right. We have got to quit doing stuff the wrong way and make sure we are following these state laws. Otherwise, we get into binds like this.”
The council voted to table the discussion while Carnes works with Osage Valley Electric Cooperative Association on a course of action.
The board then discussed the need of raising water rates.
The discussion centered around a recent town hall meeting where the need for a rate increase was brought up. It was agreed most of the residents in attendance were agreeable to increased rates to keep the department viable. Some reportedly commented that the raise might not be high enough Councilman Scott Mallatt said, “I think we need to be cautious on how much more we go up than what we are recommending right now because as we can see around us now at the stores and gas stations that everything is going up. We have families living on a very limited income. So if everything goes up at once, we just need to be cautious of that.”
City Clerk Corey Snead reminded the council filings for April’s Municipal Election will open Dec. 7. The mayor and four council seats will be up for election.