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AGO 1952 No. 297 - May 06, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICTS ‑- CITY FRANCHISE ACQUIRED FROM PRIVATE POWER COMPANY ‑- OBLIGATION OF DISTRICT TO CONTINUE FRANCHISE PAYMENTS TO CITY

A public utility district which takes over the franchise of a private power company, including such company's franchise with a city, is legally obligated for the payments to the city as stipulated in the franchise.

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                                                                    May 6, 1952

Honorable Virgil R. Lee
State Senator, Twentieth District
890 Market Street
Chehalis, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 297

Dear Sir:

            By letter of March 17, 1952, you state in part as follows:

            "At the time the Lewis County Public Utility District purchased the properties in Lewis County from the Puget Sound Light and Power Company, the Puget Sound Power and Light Company maintained a franchise with the City of Chehalis.  This franchise the District took over as a part of the properties.  The franchise calls for payment to the City of $100.00 per month for the life of the franchise which expires in 1965."

            You ask our opinion as to whether the Lewis County Public Utility District is legally obligated to continue paying the City of Chehalis the sum of $100.00 per month stipulated in the franchise agreement.

            It is our conclusion that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            A public utility district which takes over the franchise of a private power company, including such company's franchise with a city, is legally obligated for the payments to the city as stipulated in the franchise.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Before a public utility district may construct, maintain or operate its distribution facilities within and upon the streets of a city it must have a franchise from the city under which such operations are authorized.  State ex rel. Washington Water Power Company v. Superior Court, 8 Wn. (2d) 122, 111 P. (2d) 577;State ex rel. Northwestern Etc. v. Superior Court, 28 Wn. (2d) 476, 183 P. (2d) 802.  In theNorthwestern case, 28 Wn. (2d) at page 489, our Supreme Court said:

            "As hereinbefore stated, we are satisfied that the District, under the franchise it now holds, would have no authority to maintain or operate the property of Northwestern in the city of Vancouver, but it must acquire the franchise of Northwestern in order to maintain and operate its properties in the city."

            The Lewis County Public Utility District, having obtained its authority to operate in the City of Chehalis through acquisition of the franchise as granted to the Puget Sound Power and Light Company, must abide by all of the terms and conditions of such franchise.  McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (3rd ed.) § 34.46; and see 67 C.J. 1158, Waters § 633.  It is therefore our opinion that the district must continue to pay the City of Chehalis the agreed sum of $100.00 per month throughout the term of the franchise or until such obligation is modified by mutual consent of the city and the district.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

FRED L. HARLOCKER
Assistant Attorney General

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