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Richmond Still Searching for Franchise Agreements

After more than two months of searching, the City of Richmond still canít find the franchise agreements that include the conditions and compensation for the use of City rights-of-way for gas and petroleum product pipelines and electrical service. For more information, see Information Held Secret by City Available Online from Federal Government, October 17, 2007, Secret Fuel Pipelines Crisscross Richmond, October 17, 2007, Richmond Can't Find Pipeline Franchise Agreement, December 2, 2007.

 

See story below from todayís West County Times:

 

City may be missing out on tax dollars

 

RICHMOND: Contracts could be out of date, meaning that companies would be paying lower rates

By Katherine Tam

STAFF WRITER

Article Launched: 01/10/2008 03:02:47 AM PST


Richmond could be missing out on revenue because it has not kept up with some contracts held by companies that use public land.

Exactly how much revenue is unclear. At City Councilman Tom Butt's request, city staff members are sifting through files to try to find franchise agreements and pinpoint which have expired and need to be renewed.

"Are we maximizing revenues for these pipelines?" Butt said. "That remains to be seen."

The city holds franchise agreements for public right of way with companies that deliver electricity, natural gas, garbage and petroleum products, last year collecting $3.4 million in taxes to the general fund.

Richmond's operating budget this fiscal year totals $133 million, of which $3.7 million is projected to come from franchise taxes. Companies that hold expired agreements continue to pay taxes calculated under the old contracts.

Last year, Butt requested copies of the franchise agreements, but city staff members could not find them. So Butt contacted the companies that use pipelines in the city's right of way to request copies of their contracts.

He discovered that the city's franchise agreement with ConocoPhillips expired in 2002. The oil company wrote the city in 2003 and again in 2006 seeking to renew its contract without success.

Agreements with companies that supply cable television, garbage collection and services at the West Contra Costa Sanitary Landfill's transfer station are current, but other contracts might not be, Butt said.

City Manager Bill Lindsay, who was hired in 2005 to help lead Richmond back to financial stability, acknowledged the city does not have an organized way of maintaining franchise agreements or reviewing them regularly to ensure they are up to date.

Some contracts are at the old City Hall at Civic Center, which is undergoing renovation. Others are scattered in various departments.

"It's a failure on our part, and we have to acknowledge that," Lindsay said. "This is something that is absolutely necessary and important, and is something many years in coming, and we just have to get it fixed."

City officials will provide the council with a list of the franchise agreements and their status in the next several weeks, Lindsay said.

Butt inquired into the issue last year after a resident asked him whether a gasoline pipeline runs along the street where he lives. In addition to making sure Richmond is receiving maximum revenue, Butt said that city officials should look into the issue because they have the opportunity to add provisions to the use of pipelines to protect residents.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.