Three out of five White Pine County commissioners voted “nay” to a proposed new one and a half percent “franchise fee” on electricity, preventing the charge from being placed on the county’s largest electric provider Mt. Wheeler Power. Mike Coster, one of the commissioners that voted against the new “fee” said that it would have been essentially a new tax on county residents.
“The cost would have been passed onto the customers and I said that when I got elected I would oppose anything that resembled a new tax,” Coster said.
White Pine County is one of the only counties in the state to not have a “franchise fee” for electricity already in place, though residents of the city of Ely are currently paying a surcharge. The proposal, which would not have affected city residents but rather extend the charge to the rest of the county, was brought forward as a way to combat the estimated $900,000 budget shortfall the county currently faces. Coster said that the “fee” would have generated an estimated $180,000 to $200,000 in revenue if it would have passed.
Coster found support in the two commission seats that are currently up for reelection this year, with “nay” votes also coming from commissioners Mike Lemich and John Lampros. The two “aye” votes came from the remaining commissioners Richard Howe and Laurie Carson.
Lemich said that after hearing strong opposition about the fee in the meeting’s public comment section, he decided to vote against it.
“It would have affected some of our major employers, like the mines, and right now I don’t want to do anything that has negative affects on those who employ our county’s residents,” Lemich said.