MAQUOKETA, Iowa — A question will be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot asking residents whether they want the Maquoketa City Council to take back management of its utility company.
In 1985, a public vote approved moving the utility out of the council’s management into its own board and manager.
This month, 297 people signed a petition asking that the question be placed on the ballot, and the city council agreed to it Monday.
A yes vote will be for the council to assume the management and no to keep the utility as it is under the board’s management.
If it passes a simple majority, the utility would return to the management of the council on Jan. 1.
What prompted the petition is a proposal from Maquoketa Municipal Electric Utility to study closing the power plant. Three power plant employees are scheduled to be laid off Oct. 1.
Utility manager Mike Nickeson said it was a cost-cutting measure. He said the board asked him to reduce costs so electric rates can be reduced. He said the power plant is used only a few hundred hours a year as a backup for the utility’s wholesale power company, WPPI of Wisconsin. The plant does not run to meet the city’s electric needs and hasn’t for about 30 years.
Council members Neil Morehead and Ed Turney urged residents earlier this month to circulate petitions to take back management of the utility.
“With almost 300 signatures on a petition, we have no choice but to put it on the ballot,” council member Don Schwenker said. “But we need to make sure the people know what they are asking for. It doesn’t mean it will be status quo. It could change. The council could vote the same as MMEU. I don’t treasure running a utility. I’d rather have the MMEU board keep on.”
Council member Eric Pape said a yes vote does not mean the power plant will be retained.