Bill threatens city utility

As mayor, my job is to manage the operations of the city, making sure that services are provided in a fiscally responsible manner and that they benefit all of our citizens.

Senate Bill 309 threatens our ability to continue to provide our basic municipal services to our citizens, will stifle our growth and make our community less attractive to prospective economic development opportunities.

If passed, Senate Bill 309 will strip Greenfield Power and Light — and 71 other electric providers in Indiana — of the right to serve customers in newly annexed areas of our city unless NineStar Connect or Duke Energy mutually agrees to a change in service territory.

Those customers will be beholden to NineStar or Duke and all that comes with it — higher cost, poor service and no voice to do anything about it.

Greenfield Power and Light has been serving city customers since 1898. That includes serving new customers who have become part of the city as a result of annexations over the years.

If SB309 had been the law of the land, and no mutual agreement was reached among the utilities, those customers would have been required to stay with NineStar or Duke.

In the Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC) case, our rate analysis shows they would be paying 40 percent more for their electricity. Why should a new city resident be forced to pay 40 percent more for a service that Greenfield has provided for nearly 120 years?

In the past 25 years, Greenfield has attracted more than 4,000 new jobs and maintained low tax rates while providing reliable, low-cost electricity.

Companies like Elanco Global Headquarters, Avery Denison, Keihin North America, Indiana Box, Stanley Black & Decker and Indiana Automotive Fasteners have all come to Greenfield and brought quality jobs to the area.

This growth has also encouraged development in the surrounding areas that are served by other electric providers. The city does not return “profits” because we do not have profits. Our rates are set low only to cover the cost of providing electricity, not home security, telephone, broadband, TV and, maybe one day, water and wastewater services.

Greenfield Power and Light provides only electric service, and we have some of the lowest rates in the state.

In the past 25 years, we have expanded our boundary approximately 35 times. In the vast majority of these cases, this has been bare ground and at the request of the landowner or developer.

These were not land grabs; they were not seizures; they were certainly not cherry-picking exercises; and it has certainly not been an abuse of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Never, in any annexation, did the city annex for the purpose of taking someone else’s electric territory. In each case, we followed the letter of the law. In each case, we petitioned the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to serve these areas with our electricity because the customer wanted it along with water and sewer services.

And since 2002, when the service territory law was last modified, the city also has compensated the other utility a share of the income for new customers which might locate in the annexed area.

All of this compensation, approximately a half-million dollars to Ninestar, has been in accordance with the current statute.

When former Sen. Beverly Gard served in the Indiana Senate, she personally authored several bills over the years that helped the REMCs, not the least of which was the bill that allowed Central Indiana Power and Hancock Telecom to merge and be able to provide a variety of other services over a much larger area.

In 2002, she joined her Senate and House colleagues to unanimously support legislation that changed the service territory compensation formula that she now claims is unjust.

Municipal electrics are part of local government. We are governmental entities. We have been providing electric service to Greenfield citizens for nearly 120 years. To paint a picture to legislators and the citizens of Greenfield that municipal electric utilities like Greenfield Power and Light are the ultimate aggressors, the evil government threat to private property owners — that is insulting.

One must remember, REMCs were created to serve electricity to rural areas that did not have service. Along with providing telephone, cable TV and home security, they now want to serve inside city areas that have the capability to serve themselves.

This is an aggressive change in their business model to increase their profits at the expense of the city resident. It is not fair to the customer.

SB309 will not “level the playing field” but give an advantage to NineStar. With a 40 percent rate difference, that will make future growth and economic opportunity difficult.

It is bad for the citizens of Greenfield and bad for the entire state of Indiana.

Chuck Fewell is mayor of Greenfield. He can be reached at