February 15, 2019   RE: Electric Utilities

There has been conversation on social media concerning electric utility rates in the City of Strafford.

The City is served by four electric utilities: Liberty-Empire, Southwest Electric Cooperative, City Utilities of Springfield, and Webster Electric Cooperative. Liberty-Empire is an investor owned utility and their rate structure is approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission. Southwest and Webster are cooperatives, governed by a Board of Directors consisting of members of the coop. Cooperative rate structures are determined by their Board under guidance of what was the Rural Electrification Administration. City Utilities is a public utility owned by the City of Springfield with their rate structure determined by the Board of Public Utilities and approved by Springfield City Council.

Since Liberty-Empire is an investor owned utility, they do not receive disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for ice storms and tornados, which Liberty-Empire experienced in 2007, 2008 and 2011. Public utilities and cooperatives received such FEMA assistance. These unreimbursed costs are incorporated into Liberty-Empire's rate structure.

The Empire District Electric Company (now Liberty-Empire) brought electrical service to the then unincorporated village of Strafford in the 1930's. Springfield Gas and Electric (now CU) brought electrical service to what is now the extreme western part of Strafford in the late 1920's. The electrical cooperatives "filled the gaps" of the rural areas in the 1940's. The service areas of CU and Liberty-Empire were established years ago by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

As the City of Strafford grew, in some areas, developers had a choice between Liberty-Empire and Southwest for electric service. Under the rules of the Public Service Commission, when the City reached 2000 in population, in the 2010 census, the cooperatives lost the ability to connect new customers in the city.

The City of Strafford has franchise agreements with Liberty-Empire, Southwest and CU. The agreement allows the respective utilities to use City right-of-way. The agreement allows the respective utilities to use City right-of-way for their distribution system. As compensation of the use of right-of-way, the utility pays a 6% franchise fee to the city. This allows the utility to expand their system without obtaining easements from private land owners. This franchise system is provided for in State Statute and is utilized by many cities in the state. The Village of Strafford first entered into a franchise agreement in 1961 and was last renewed in 2018.

Comments on social media voiced complaints on rates of Liberty-Empire. The City of Strafford has no control over rates adopted by Liberty-Empire. Complaints or concerns should be directed to the Public Service Commission of Missouri at: 
https://psc.mo.gov/General/Submit_Comments  
There were also comments about the City of Monett negotiating with the utility. That negotiation was between the City and Liberty for wholesale costs charged to the City of Monett as they operate their own electric utility by purchasing power from Liberty-Empire and reselling it to their citizens through city billing.