Home > Government > City Charter > Chapter XV

Chapter XV

Public Utility Franchises

Section 15.1.  Franchises Remain in Effect.

       All franchises to which the City is a party when this Charter becomes effective shall remain in full force and effect in accordance with their respective terms and conditions.

Section 15.2.  Granting of Public Utility Franchises.

       Public utility franchises and all renewals, and extensions thereof and amendments thereto shall be granted only by ordinance.  Public utility franchises shall be subject to the initiative and referendum powers of the people.  No exclusive franchise shall ever be granted.  No franchise shall be granted for a longer period than twenty (20) years.  If a referendum is ordered to be submitted to the registered electors or if the City Council votes to refer the franchise ordinance to the electorate, no election shall be held until the applicant deposits the cost thereof with the City Manager in an amount determined by said City Manager.  If the City Council votes to refer this franchise ordinance to the electorate, no franchise ordinance shall be approved by the Council for referral to the electorate before thirty (30) days after application therefor has been filed with the Council nor until a public hearing has been held thereon, nor until the grantee named therein has filed with the Clerk his unconditional acceptance of all terms of such franchise.  (As amended 11-3-87)

Section 15.3.  Compensation.

       Every grant of a franchise shall fix the amount and manner of payment of the compensation to be paid by the grantee for the use of the same, and no other compensation of any kind shall be exacted for such use during the life of the franchise.  This provision shall not exempt the grantee from any lawful taxation upon his or its property, nor from any license, charges or other impositions levied by the Council, not levied on account of the use granted by the franchise.

Section 15.4.  Conditions of Public Utility Franchises.

       All public utility franchises granted after the adoption of this Charter, whether it be so provided in the granting ordinance or not, shall be subject to the following rights of the City, but this enumeration shall not be exclusive or impair the right of the Council to insert in such franchise any provision within the power of the City to impose or require:

(a)To repeal the same for misuse, non-use or failure to comply with the provisions thereof;

(b)To require proper and adequate extension of plant and service and maintenance thereof at the highest practicable standard of efficiency;

(c)To establish reasonable standards of service and quality of products and prevent unjust discrimination in service or rates;

(d)To require continuous and uninterrupted service to the public in accordance with the terms of the franchise throughout the entire period thereof;

(e)To use, control and regulate the use of its streets, alleys, bridges and other public places and the space above and beneath them;

(f)To impose such other regulations as may be determined by the Council to be conducive to the safety, welfare and accommodation of the public.

       All franchises or privileges hereafter granted to railroads or other transportation systems shall plainly specify the particular streets, alleys, avenues, and other public property, or parts thereof, to which they shall apply.  All other franchises may be in general terms and may apply to the City generally.

Section 15.5.  Use of Public Places by Utilities.

       Every public utility, whether it has a franchise or not, shall pay such part of the cost of improvement or maintenance of streets, alleys, bridges and other public places as shall arise from its use thereof and shall protect and save the City harmless from all damages arising from said use.  Every such public utility may be required by the City to permit joint use of its property and appurtenances located in the streets, alleys or other public places of the City by the City and by other utilities insofar as such joint use may be reasonably practicable and upon payment of reasonable rental therefor.  In the absence of agreement and upon application by any public utility, the Council shall provide for arbitration of the terms and conditions of such joint use and the compensation to be paid therefor, and the arbitration award shall be final.

Section 15.6.  Reserved.

       Editor's note - Section 15.6 which pertained to railroads and derived from the 1958 Charter, was repealed by an election on November 7, 1989.

Section 15.7.  Reports by Utilities.

       Every person or corporation operating under a franchise or grant from the City shall annually submit to the Council a report verified by oath of the president, the treasurer, or the general manager thereof.  Such reports shall be in the form, contain such detailed information, and cover the period prescribed by the Council.  The Council shall have the power, either through its members or by authorized experts or employees, to examine the books and affairs of any such person, persons, or corporations, and to compel the production of books and other records pertaining to such reports pertaining to such reports or other matters.

Section 15.8.  Books of Record.

       The Council shall provide and cause to be kept in the office of the City Clerk an indexed franchise record in which shall be transcribed copies of all franchises granted by the City.  Said record shall be a complete history of all franchises granted by the City and shall include a comprehensive and convenient reference to actions, contests or proceedings at law affecting the same, and copies of all annual and inspection reports and such other information as the Council may require.

Section 15.9.  Revocable Permits.

       The Council may grant a permit at any time for the temporary use or occupation of any street, alley or public place, provided such permit shall be revocable by the Council at its pleasure whether such right to revoke be expressly reserved in such permit or not.

Section 15.10.  Leasing of Franchises.

       No franchise granted by the City shall ever be leased, assigned or otherwise alienated without the express consent of the City; and no dealing with the lessee or assignee on the part of the City to require the performance of any act or the payment of any compensation by the lessee or assignee shall be deemed to operate as such consent.  Any assignment or sale of such franchise without the consent of the City shall at the option of the Council operate as a forfeiture to the City of such franchise.

Section 15.11.  City May Acquire Utilities.

       The Council upon vote of the taxpaying electors shall have the power within or without the territorial limits of the City to construct, condemn and purchase, acquire and lease waterworks, gas works, light plants, power plants, transportation systems, telephone systems, heating plants, and other public utilities local in use and extent, in whole or in part, and everything required therefor, for the use of the City and its inhabitants; and any such systems, plants, works, or ways, or any contracts in relation or in connection therewith which may exist and which the City may desire to acquire or purchase, in whole or in part, the same or any part thereof may be purchased by the City.  Such public utilities acquired by the City, except waterworks, shall not be paid for out of general taxes or general obligation bonds, but shall be paid for from the revenue derived from the public utility.

       Every grant, extension or renewal of a franchise or right shall provide that the City may, upon the payment therefor of its fair valuation, purchase and take over the property and plant of the grantee in whole or in part.  Such valuation shall be made as provided in the grant but shall not include any value of the franchise or right-of-way through the streets or any earning power of such property.