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Adel provides utility billing update

During the Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, meeting of the Adel Mayor and Council, City Manager John Flythe advised the Council that Councilman Greg Paige had called to discuss a utility bill for Sharonda Brown.

The customers were using an average of 26 to 52 kilowatts per day; on Oct. 14, it jumped to 184. They were using about 1,500 KW per month.  Because of that increase in consumption, it jumped to a usage of 4,448 kilowatts for that particular month. The consumption then dropped back down to where the average was previously.

“We’ve been asked to do something with this bill,” Flythe said. The electric superintendent was asked to look at it. There was an air conditioner problem, but it was supposedly outside this period. “We don’t know exactly when that was and haven’t talked to the a/c guy,” Flythe remarked.

Councilman Paige was asked if he knew who the a/c repairman was, to which he replied he did not. Councilman Paige said he will get the name.

Flythe asked “if we could come back to the next meeting and complete this. We will extend the customer’s bill until we have a resolution.”

Turning to an overall utility billing update, John Flythe said he is hoping, “this is not a drop down due date,” but he’s hoping by late fall or December, the City might have the billing caught up.

“We need to have a meeting among the Council to talk about what happens when people start getting two bills within one month,” Flythe said. “With our accounting being affected by the delayed billing, we are going to recommend we adopt a budget that will be subject to review the early part of the year.”

Flythe said he wants “to take the budget we have now, take off the capital items, and use that number for our budget.” The City must have an approved budget by Oct. 1, and the City Council will have to set a millage rate.

“We’ll bring this to the next meeting with a calendar of events we need to work off of,” Flythe remarked to the Council. “If you have a different way you want to do it, let me know.”

Councilwoman Celestine Hayes asked when the City Council would have the work session. Flythe said it is up to the Council, “but we can get a calendar as to when we think more than one bill will be going out, and we’ll meet prior to that to decide what to do. We’ll decide at the next meeting when will be a good day to meet.”

As for forgiveness of bills, City Attorney Tim Tanner brought it to the Council’s attention that there is a public gratuity prohibition on the forgiveness of debt by municipalities or counties or the state.

“I’m not against it, but there needs to be a policy in place that everybody knows about so we can make objective, instead of subjective, decisions on,” Tanner said. “If there’s an unexplained rise in the amount of usage, whether it be water or electricity, there just needs to be a policy in place that we go by.

“I can foresee a problem arising if you get in a situation where you forgive one person’s debt and don’t forgive another person’s debt. Some people may have more information and present more information, and have a better claim. Some may not, but that might not justify a denial.   Just keep that in mind going forward, that if we’re going to forgive debt, we need to do it by a policy that applies across the board.”

Councilman Hayes asked, “Why can’t we just forgive everybody’s debt?”

Tanner replied “because that would be illegal.” She was also advised “because the City would be bankrupt.”

Tanner said the forgiveness of debt “would have to be based upon some type of mistake, such as they didn’t get the service; therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay for the service.

“To forgive debt, there may be problems with that.”

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