After months of discussion, the White Pine County Commission approved the creation of a new county ordinance to impose a bi-annually increasing “franchise fee” on county residents’ power bills. The “fee” will impose a one percent tax increase on electricity bills for county residents this year, followed by another percent increase in 2017 and a half a percent increase again in 2019.

According to the commission, the tax is aimed to generate new revenue to eliminate the need for cutting county employees’ hours.

“I think that was the best thing I have voted on since becoming a commissioner because we saved a lot of people’s jobs,” county commissioner Richard Howe said.

The ordinance passed by a 3-2 vote on Monday with commissioners Howe, Chairman of the board Gary Perea and Laurie Carson all voting in favor of the “fee” and Carol McKenzie and Mike Coster voting against it. Howe, who has been a strong supporter of bringing back the tax to the county after it sunset in 2012, said that he feels the tax should be a permanent measure from the county to generate revenue.

McKenzie, who said minutes before the vote that she wasn’t sure where she fell on the issue, said she hoped it won’t come to that.

“I just didn’t feel right about voting in favor of it. I felt like we needed to go in a different direction,” she said regarding her no vote. McKenzie also stated that she is “comfortable” with the initial one percent increase this year as long as the commission can find other revenues in the future to “not go over that.”

While the vote during the Monday meeting only instructed Disctrict Attorney Mike Wheable to draft the ordinance, McKenzie said that it will “undoubtedly” pass in the board’s meeting next month. According to NRS, the ordinance will have to have a “first reading” in a commission’s next scheduled meeting on May 27 before the commission can give it a final approval.

The tax increase will not affect City of Ely residents, who already pay a three percent “franchise fee” on their electricity bills. According to Perea, the board’s approval of the increase