TRAER — With four more provisional ballots on the books, Traer Municipal Utilities was given the option to take control of natural gas service — assuming the unofficial count holds after this morning’s canvass.

The vote now stands at 269 “yes” votes and 262 “no” votes, a seven-vote difference, according to Tama County Auditor Laura Kopsa. The vote was to be certified today.

Five provisional ballots were cast during last Tuesday’s municipal election on whether TMU should take over natural gas service from Alliant Energy, the current provider.

Four of those ballots ultimately were approved and counted, and gave two votes to each side, said Kopsa. No absentee ballots arrived in the ensuing days.

Mike Wagner, spokesperson for Alliant Energy, said the utility will request a recount from Tama County “in the coming days.”

“Based on the very small difference in votes, it is in our customers’ best interest to recount the ballots to verify the final count,” Wagner wrote in an email to media.

Pat Stief, general manager of TMU, said a recount was fine with them.

“We are confident that the vote count from Tuesday’s election will stand in our favor despite the recount Alliant is requesting,” Stief wrote in an email to The Courier. “TMU is prepared to move forward with the condemnation process to determine the fair market value of the gas franchise.”

If the final total stands, the vote will not automatically give TMU control of the gas service. Instead, it will allow TMU to pursue legal condemnation of Alliant’s claim to the natural gas infrastructure at a fair market value. That legal process could take months or even years.

Wagner said if TMU went ahead with voters’ wishes, “the expense to the citizens of Traer’s will be significant.”

“Utilizing the recount process assures that the community’s wishes have been heard on such a costly matter,” Wagner added.

Stief argued TMU has already factored in those costs.

“We have repeatedly stated, if it is determined not to be a feasible, smart investment for Traer’s future, we simply will not proceed,” Stief said. “Based on the results of the feasibility study and two separate system appraisals, we are confident we can provide competitive, reliable and safe gas service to the citizens of Traer.”

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Multimedia Reporter

Multimedia Reporter at The Courier

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