DECORAH — A hand recount has confirmed Decorah voters narrowly rejected forming their own municipal electric utility.
Winneshiek County Auditor Ben Steines said the three-member board met Friday to recount ballots cast in the May 1 referendum to determine whether the city, currently served by Alliant Energy, would start its own utility.
Steines said the recount showed the measure failed by just three votes — with 1,382 voting in favor and 1,385 voting no.
The recount narrowed the gap from five votes, which was reported at Monday’s canvass by the Board of Supervisors. Two ballots which had been marked as undervotes or overvotes by the machines were deemed to be clearly “yes” votes by the recount board.
Carly Hayden Foster, a member of the Decorah Power organization promoting the city-owned utility, served on the recount board.
“There wasn’t a lot of hope (the outcome would change),” she said. “But it seemed prudent just to check.”
Iowa law prohibits Decorah from holding another vote on forming a municipal utility for at least four years.
Mike Wagner, spokesman for Alliant Energy, issued a statement on the recount.
“On behalf of the 17 local employees who serve the Decorah area, Alliant Energy thanks the record number of voters who participated in this election,” Wagner said. “The results will allow us to continue serving the community with the safe, reliable and increasingly clean energy our customers have come to expect.”
Decorah Power had conducted a feasibility study estimating it would cost about $7.6 million to acquire Alliant’s infrastructure and contended a municipal utility could operate about $5 million cheaper each year than Alliant.
Alliant provided its own study indicating it would cost Decorah $51 million to establish its own electric utility.
Decorah’s 25-year franchise agreement with Alliant subsidiary Interstate Power & Light expires in June. The city has been in the process of adopting a new franchise agreement with Interstate Power.