Current 30-day timeframe payment schedule to remain in effect
During the Monday, Oct. 17, 2022, meeting of the Adel Mayor and Council, City Manager John Flythe said that within the last couple of weeks, Councilman Greg Paige and Councilwoman Celestine Hayes came to his office to talk about some kind of credit to be issued to the ratepayers.
City Attorney Tim Tanner suggested that city officials prepare a resolution that he could bring to the next meeting if all are in agreement. “As he develops the resolution, we need to give him input as to what we want to do,” Flythe said.
City Attorney Tanner said he would need some direction, with maybe some bullet points, so that he could place it in the form of a resolution. Councilwoman Hayes then said it had come to her attention about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and it states that it can be used to address home energy costs. The RA programs which receive an additional $21.5 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan can provide help with past due utility bills for ongoing assistance with energy costs to help distressed renters avoid shutoff. State and local fiscal recovery funds can also be deployed.
Councilwoman Hayes questioned whether a motion should be made that night on the resolution, or “wait until we find out about these funds to see if we can get additional?” He asked her if she knew who administered those funds. She could not provide any additional information.
Mayor Buddy Duke said he thought it would be prudent to let the city attorney take that information to see what can be used under the American Rescue Plan. He asked Councilwoman Hayes if that funding was for cities to make application for or citizens. Her information did not specify.
Mayor Duke suggested a motion concerning a resolution for the current ARPA funds that the City has, and then look at what she has separately. Councilwoman Hayes made a motion to credit the residents with $400 after city staff totals all the bills, and then give them 24 months to pay off with no penalty and interest; also, with an amendment to give them extra funds and “also to pave Lavind Way.”
Councilman Walter Cowart said he thought the City Council was talking about the American Rescue Plan funds.
Councilwoman Hayes said she was, but she was “also talking about some additional funds they have now.”
The city attorney suggested two motions: One about the $400 credit and one about paving the streets using ARPA funds, and then a separate motion concerning the policy on the 24 months payback. Have two separate resolutions, he said. He explained the ARPA funds have about 500 pages in rules. “To pay money out to give utility credit, you go under the negative impact portion of ARPA funds,” Tanner said. “That will have to be submitted to Washington, and submitted that due to the negative economic impacts of COVID, our citizens need this, and this is how we want to spend our money.
“We have a unique situation in Adel with the billing situation. That’s kind of an internal Adel situation, but still two resolutions would be passed.”
Mayor Duke confirmed that “we would still get to where we want to get to.”
The city attorney then explained that ARPA funds are supposed to be spent specifically to address the economic impacts of the pandemic; “it’s not because we’ve got a utility billing problem here in Adel.”
“If we have to submit this to Washington,” he said, he thinks “it’s all legal, but it needs to address the impact, not our own internal situation.” There will still be two resolutions he will draw up. Councilman Hayes made a motion to: (1) Provide a $400 credit for utility customers on or about April or March 2023; and (2) Pave three streets which include Bill, Ayers and Lavind.
“It will be paid out of ARPA funding,” she said. She noted that this wouldn’t happen “until next year after we get all the bills sent out. People will continue to pay as they have been within the 30-day timeframe.”
Councilman Paige seconded. All were in favor.
Councilman Hayes then made a motion that for residents, “once the total is there, that they be given 24 months to pay if off. With that total, the statement should read what their total is, minus the $400 and what the total balance is after that, and also with the amendment, will you [referring to the city attorney] check on the other ARPA money to offset the remaining total?”
The attorney verified that everyone would get 24 months to pay off past arrearage after the final tally is obtained. “Yes, with no interest and penalties,” Councilwoman Hayes said. He asked if the City was going to add 1/24th on top of the bill each month. It was noted that city staff will have to speak with the programmer “to see if we can fit what we want to do on the bill; we will have to confirm that with him.” Councilwoman Hayes said that “when you look at your bill you’ve got all these past months; take off some of that so you can see it.”
City Clerk Rhonda Rowe explained that this is the history on the bottom of the bills that residents want, so they can see what they were using at this time last year. It is a history table and not part of the billing program.
Councilwoman Hayes said that would be “a one-time thing to let them know what the amount is, and you can cut some of that off to let them know what the total is minus the credit.”
The city manager said city staff would try to get that worked out.
The city attorney confirmed Mrs. Hayes’ motion was to give utility customers a repayment schedule with no penalty or interest up to 24 months, when the City is able to get a total arrearage which is expected to be March or April 2023. He noted he would include something about looking for all additional funding.
Councilman Paige seconded. All were in favor.