Members of the Community Planning Committee received permission from our League board to submit two suggested additions to the Corvallis Strategic Operational Plan. One of those is for the city to consider using an ordinance-based method rather than franchise agreements to manage how utilities use the city’s public right-of-way (PROW).

PROW’s include streets, roads, highways, bridges, alleys, sidewalks, trails, paths, public easements on private property and all other public ways or areas, including the subsurface under and air space over them. Utilities that provide services to Corvallis residents obtain permission from the city to use and install their needed infrastructure in the city’s PROW.

Traditionally, this permission has been given through franchise agreements. Corvallis’ first franchise was with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in the early 1900’s. It currently has franchises with Republic Services of Corvallis, Consumer Power, Inc., Pacific Power, Comcast Cable Services, Northwest Natural, CenturyLink, Pioneer Telephone Cooperative, and LS Networks.

Each franchise agreement defines how the company will use the PROW, the responsibilities of each party, liabilities and indemnities, duration (typically 10 years), conditions that may lead to cancellation, and fees. The fees are a percentage of the utility’s gross revenue earned within city boundaries. The Oregon Public Utilities Commission sets the percentage. The U.S Supreme Court defined the fee as rent for use of the PROW. It is meant to cover city costs for administering and maintaining the PROW.

To be continued in March, with information about licensing ordinances.

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