O’Brien County, Iowa — The cities of Primghar and Hartley will hold special elections tomorrow, Tuesday, May 3rd.
In Primghar the issue at hand is whether the city should take control of the natural gas system. The system is now owned by Black Hills Energy, based in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Primghar City Council voted to cancel its franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy. The Council now proposes to take over the natural gas system and create a City-owned municipal utility.
Black Hills Energy has been running a campaign against the move, saying prices could go up, since while the gas company’s prices are regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board, a municipal system would set its own rates, unchecked by a state board.
Proponents for City ownership say money from the sale of gas could be funneled into other city projects, such as a new swimming pool. They also emphasize that their opinion is that local control is better than control in Des Moines or Rapid City.
Black Hills says the system is not for sale. If the vote goes through, the City would start a legal process in an attempt to force Black Hills Energy to sell its system to the City. The purchase price would be determined in court.
In Hartley, the election will decide on the replacement of a city council member. The lone name on the ballot is Valerie Moermond, and unless a write-in candidate would get more votes, Moermond would be the winner. The winner will fill the vacancy created when Brad Meendering unexpectedly resigned in February.
Polling places are the O’Brien County Courthouse Community Room for Primghar voters and the Hartley Public Library for Hartley voters. Polling hours are noon until 8 PM in both communities.