Thursday, January 26, 2012
Board requires utility to follow rules
By SUE WATSON
A concern by Holly Springs aldermen that they may be personally liable for approximately $700,000 in uncollected utility bills in the city drew discussion at last week’s board meeting.
Alderman Russell Johnson asked the mayor first if the matter of turn-off/turn-on policy is being followed by the city. He said he wants to know if the city is in violation of the reconnect policy.
The concern arose in response to a comprehensive TVA audit of the electric department.
Board attorney Ki Jones said there would be no personal liability of aldermen unless a person has caused the policy to be abrogated.
Johnson then motioned to follow all the procedures outlined and approved by the board of aldermen concerning disconnect/reconnect rules.
Alderman Harvey Payne seconded Johnson’s motion and a vigorous discussion followed.
Mayor Andre’ DeBerry said the audit is a TVA study about granting extensions (time to pay utility bills in arrears) to customers with outstanding bills.
DeBerry said the city has been trying five years to shrink bad debt, the amount that the city writes off annually. The amount of bad debt accrued due to customers not keeping their bills current was approaching $750,000 dollars, according to the mayor, but now has dropped back to $600,000.
“TVA is a power company; the City of Holly Springs is a distributor,” the mayor said. “TVA has regulatory authority on what (the city) must have in assets (dollars) in reserve. How many times has TVA submitted a bill that the city could not repay?”
The question was put to general manager Don Hollingsworth, who answered, never has the city failed to pay its power bill to TVA during his tenure.
“I am trying to come up with a way to collect bad debt without shutting off power,” DeBerry said.
He said HSUD has about 13,000 customers and the bad debt concerns about only 101 customers, which is not substantial in terms of percentage who are in arrears on their accounts.
“I think it is over-kill by TVA that 101 customers should not be extended (time to pay while keeping the electricity on),” DeBerry said.
“My motion was to comply with the policy,” said Johnson. “I just want us to go on record as saying that we comply with our policy on reconnect/disconnect.”
“What have we changed?” DeBerry asked Johnson.
“Who has the authority to reconnect people who have outstanding bills?” Johnson asked. “We all have asked about letters (from TVA) to be in compliance on disconnect/reconnect policy. I just want to spread on the minutes that we will comply with what TVA asked us to do.”
“My question,” said alderman Johnnie Ree Bagley-Johnson, “is if we are in compliance, why would they (TVA) say we are not following the guidlines?”
“TVA has some monitoring, but they do not own us,” said DeBerry. “We pay them for power. I think TVA would rather I didn’t give anybody an extension or reconnect. Those are customers of the utility and the city is a customer of TVA.
“We are saying, keep your bill current and put something down that you can reasonably pay on your back bill. People in certain situations are not able to pay due to financial situations that change.”
Bagley continued. “Some of the ones on our list of delinquent customers are not keeping their agreements and are also being disconnected.”
“I represent the city of Holly Springs, you represent the city of Holly Springs,” the mayor said.
“Thank you,” said Russell Johnson.
“When people come to us, it’s tough,” DeBerry added. “There are lots of cases that are special cases.”
“If we follow the policy, we won’t have a problem,” said Johnson.
With that Johnson’s motion was restated – to follow the policy of the board of aldermen for disconnect/reconnect of customers, the rules requested by TVA and approved by the board of aldermen regarding the same. The motion passed unanimously 4-0 with alderman Garrie Colhoun absent.
Then Hollingsworth informed the mayor and board that TVA had requested a meeting with the board for February 7 at 4 p.m.
“They called and asked for this one and a half hour before the board meeting,” Hollingsworth said.
“At the end of the day, you are allowing a vendor (TVA) to tell you when to meet and what to meet on,” said the mayor.
“I do not see a problem (with meeting then),” said Johnson.
Alfred Moore then asked the mayor, if when the policy states the city should follow TVA rules, will customers get their electricity cut off if they do not pay their bill.
“You get four extensions a year,” said Hollingsworth.
“I have no problem with meeting (with TVA), but with people telling us when we meet. We can prepare some dates,” said DeBerry.
“Mayor, I can go on your schedule,” said alderman Payne.
“I am just saying, what is the purpose of the meeting?” asked DeBerry.
“They still want to meet with us after we voted to correct and follow policy?” asked Bagley.
“The vice president of operations and a TVA attorney want to meet with the board and mayor,” Hollingsworth explained.
“Can you call and see what’s the necessity of the meeting?” asked alderman Calvin James.
“If the problem is strict compliance, what are we meeting for?” asked the mayor.
The discussion was dropped.
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (662) 252-3388
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
The South Reporter
P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page