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French companies picked for 50-year University of Iowa utility lease

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – A collaboration of two French companies would pay the University of Iowa more than $1.1 billion to secure the rights to operate its utility system for the next 50 years under a proposal released Tuesday.

The Iowa Board of Regents is meeting Tuesday to consider approving the transaction with a newly-formed consortium made up of energy company ENGIE and investor Meridiam.

Gov. Kim Reynolds told the regents that it is a “historic day for higher education in Iowa.” She called it an innovative approach that will create revenue that help finance the school’s strategic plan.

Critics have called the deal risky, and attacked the university for not releasing the details until moments before Tuesday’s meeting.

The documents show that the ENGIE-Meridiam consortium was recommended by a project team that considered bids from several others.

The university would pay the new company a fixed fee of $35 million annually, plus operations and maintenance costs and reimbursement for capital improvements.

The company would be responsible for running plants that distribute electricity, water, steam and compressed air and the sanitary sewer and storm sewer system.

The $1.165 billion upfront payment would be invested in an endowment that would be used for energy costs and strategic education and research initiatives.


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