Mt. Crested Butte signs 20-year franchise agreement with GCEA

New street lights in the works

After months of work, Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick finished negotiating a franchise agreement with Gunnison County Electric Association that protects the interests of both parties while the utility does its work on town property.
Fitzpatrick told the council the agreement is similar to the previous 20-year franchise agreement between the town and GCEA that expired last year, “with the electric association providing street lighting and adding street lights as we expand. We also included the changing out of our existing fixtures, which are now aged,” he said. “The hockey puck fixture is no longer manufactured and we’re looking for an upgrade for the town.”
The look of the town’s new fixtures will be something like the lights in Mountaineer Square, “with an historic design, but modern lighting that’s focused down,” Fitzpatrick told the council. The new fixtures, of which the town will need 112, should run between $3,200 and $3,500 apiece.
To get the full value of GCEA’s offer, however, the town needs to have the streetlights installed in the next three years. “We have essentially an annual budget. If we snooze we lose … If we don’t use the money within three years, we lose it,” said Fitzpatrick.
But the streetlights aren’t entirely a gift from GCEA to the town for access to its rights of way. Town staff included a $10,000 line item in the town’s annual budget to help pay for the installation of as many streetlights as possible this summer.
GCEA chief executive Mike Wells thanked the council for working with the utility and pointed out that the lights, and the power to run them, aren’t the only things being offered to the town in the agreement. “The [figure] of $40,000 a year for the replacement and installation of the new fixtures, Gunnison County Electric feels that is a fair number,” Wells said. “My calculation, not knowing exactly what the light fixture will be, is that we replace all 112 fixtures at that $40,000 in a period of about 10 years. So we’re talking about a very substantial investment in these fixtures, over $400,000 probably.
“The energy we provide for the lighting in Mt. Crested Butte is around $10,000 a year,” he continued. “We also spend about $15,000 a year in labor and material to replace the existing poles that get hit by snowplows or a car that runs off the road.”
Hearing Fitzpatrick reassure them that the agreement was a fair one, the council moved to approve the franchise agreement with GCEA. The document has already been approved by the GCEA board of directors and will go again to the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council for an official first reading May 15.

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