By Cole Parkinson
A local group leader has shown their disapproval with the talk of raising the Fortis franchise fee that resides in Vauxhall.
Joerg Klempnauer, president of the Vauxhall Business Society, has given Vauxhall town council his thoughts regarding the proposal to potentially raise the fee.
“We all know the towns need money and we have no problem with agreeing to that, they have to get it some way, we all have our needs. We know there are tax requirements, what I don’t like is going through the backdoor. In my opinion this should be rejected by the town, it does not only affect businesses. Initially I saw that it was a charge on business accounts but it’s on everybody. I think it’s wrong for the town to have this charge on our bill because it’s a hidden tax, I think it would be better for them to say ‘we need more money so we’re increasing the taxes’ and be straight forward with it,” said Klempnauer.
Fortis is the only power provider in the town so increasing the fee leaves the community in a bind.
Klempnauer owns a business so the strain of not being able to seek out cheaper power is leaving a sour taste in his mouth.
“The power was deregulated some time ago, it was the brainchild of our former Premier Ralph Klein. He wanted to make it better for business to get a better rate on electricity but I think the whole thing has kind of back fired,” said Klempnauer. “One thing that came in play was the franchise fee that the municipality can charge and let one power provider work their area meaning I have no option to go somewhere else. Our company buys about $25-35,000 worth of electricity a year. I have tried to find other companies to provide me with the rate and they said ‘Vauxhall has a franchise agreement with Fortis so we can’t do nothing.’ It puts a monopoly on electricity providers in my opinion.”
While some have stated that power bills can be lowered by using less power, Klempnauer says that it doesn’t quite work that way.
Due to how the charges have been set up, if you lower power usage another charge raises up to equal it out.
“You can’t change who actually bills you but if I look at my power bill at $2,500 a month, only $300-$500 are payments for the power. If we have low usage, the line charge increases and our complete power bill per month remains largely the same. My opinion is if they have less sale of electricity, they just charge you more for the line charge. It boils down to monopoly and you don’t have the choice to go somewhere else,” said Klempnauer. “Fortis gets about $760,000 a year on line and distribution charges in the Town of Vauxhall.”
The possible changes to the Fortis franchise fee were brought up at the Vauxhall town council meeting on Sept. 18 and Klempnauer was in attendance.
A motion was passed to include feedback from the Vauxhall Business Society at their next meeting.
Klempnauer sent out a memo to all of the members but unfortunately he hasn’t received many comments back from the community.
“We sent out messages to our members twice and I have one response. It doesn’t show me anything, it tells me that status quo is good except for the one guy out of 50 or 51 members and the others don’t care. I do care and hoped to get a little bit of feedback from our people and it’s not happening,” said Klempnauer. “It’s stagnation or it’s disinterest by people to do something, we all know they go into the coffee shop and complain but (nobody wants to do anything).”
During the most recent Vauxhall town council meeting on Oct. 2, Klempnauer asked for an extension for Oct. 16 when the VBS will write a suggestion for the council.
Klempnauer hopes to show council what the effects will be to the town if the rate is raised even higher than the two per cent it currently sits at.
“I think it’s a matter of trying to persuade councillors to understand it and the philosophy behind it. If someone comes to my business and says ‘I’ll pay you ‘x’ amount of dollars but you only sell my brand’ I have to make a decision on whether or not it’s worth it. Or do I put myself into a position where I’m held for ransom?”