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Adel Council: Residents as of Dec. 31, 2022, to be eligible for $400 utility credit

During the Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, meeting of Adel Mayor and Council, Resolution #22-09, authorizing expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to remedy the effects of the pandemic on households and provide for the provision of government services, was presented to the Council.

City Attorney Tim Tanner noted that a date needed to be determined for existing customers that would receive the credit for Section 1. For instance, if someone came in the previous day and opened an account, should they be given the credit, too, so a date needed to be defined concerning this, Tanner said.

The date of Dec. 31, 2022, was presented as a consideration. Hopefully, billing will be caught up with around the end of March, according to city officials.

If someone opened an account in January, they should only receive very little of the delay. They would certainly also have the option to do a pre-payment if they chose.  Depending on the timing of when a customer opens an account, it could be two months anyway before they receive their first bill.

Councilman Walter Cowart said Dec. 31 sounded good to him.

Councilwoman Celestine Hayes said she talked with a gentleman who moved here in June and he has just now received a bill, so she didn’t think someone who just moved here in June; she would think it would have to deal with everyone that it affected from the time that it started.  Mayor Duke said he felt the same way, but it would be “a bookkeeping nightmare to figure out” (a pro rata amount for what she was making reference to).

“How could you decide what is fair for those that did come in versus those who have been here the whole time?” Duke asked.

The city attorney said, “Obviously it’s for Adel customers, but what does that mean? That’s easy sitting here today, but customers come and go sometime.

“For instance, in Valdosta, when they used some of the ARPA funds for non-profits and businesses, they had a range. Some were declined because they didn’t start a business until after they were in a qualified census tract or they didn’t start the business until after the range (they had a set range of dates).”

Mayor Duke said whereas those people who have left will not be able to take advantage of it and they might have left last month. “It goes both ways,” he said.

Tanner noted that was a good point: “You might want to think that Adel customers that existed on this date, what if they had left? Do you say if they existed on this date, do they still remain a customer?”

Mayor Duke said, “The date of Dec. 31 was mentioned today. It will be up to the Council to decide, but you’ve got to decide what point is the cut-off? Most of the people in here tonight have been affected by it.”

Duke said he doesn’t keep up with the number of customers who come in, but anybody who is a resident as of Dec. 31 will be eligible for it.

Altheia Paige addressed Mayor Duke. She said it appeared he was ignoring her, but she had a question. Mayor Duke said, “We are still having a conversation,” but he would address her in a second. He advised her she did not have the floor. He said he would be with her in a minute, but he wanted to get the Council’s understanding concerning the date. “We’ve established the amount of money, the time that it came, and we need to establish the time of which it can be awarded,” Duke said.

Councilman Jody Greene said that for some customers, they may get some advantage over those who have been here a lot longer, but there is really almost no way to separate them.  For somebody who opened an account today, it will still be another three or four months before their final bill comes out, he said.

Mayor Duke addressed Mrs. Paige, and she questioned that the ARPA funds were only going to be used for the paving of those three streets, along with the $400 credit for the customers: “Is that what I understand?”

Duke advised that is what was presented.  Mrs. Paige verified that nothing else has been added to it for the ARPA funds, to which she was advised, “No.”

Mrs. Paige said another question, “if y’all do December 31st,” she understands it might be hard for the staff, but “because some have been here so long and they have suffered the most, if someone comes in and they have been here since July, they are gong to be able to take advantage of what older residents have already been dealing with and struggling to pay.”

She said, to her, “it wouldn’t be fair if I moved in July 31st and I got money to my account. I wouldn’t feel obligated to that because it didn’t affect me during the time that it has affected everybody else for those seven or eight months.”

Mayor Duke said he agreed 100%.  Councilwoman Hayes said she felt the same way as Mrs. Paige, “but at the same time, we don’t need to keep delaying this. It will just push it out further as far as it being done, and it may take a while to do all this.”

Mayor Duke added, “We’re establishing the amount and time frame to cut it off. The amount is not going to change to the recipients that have been here.”

“All you’re really discussing is whether the new residents are deserving of the full amount. There may be a handful of those people. I don’t really know how many. The amount is a guaranteed amount for the residents that have been here for the duration. We’re not changing that at all.”  Councilman Cowart made a motion to approve the resolution with a date of Dec. 31, 2022, inserted for the date of existing customers. Councilman Greene seconded.

City Attorney Tanner added that the way he’s written it is in a way that the $400 for customers is a top priority, and then it moves down to the street paving. The decision was unanimous.

Resolution #22-10, addressing arrearage repayment on utility accounts, was presented to the Council.

City Attorney Tanner asked if city staff were confident the billing software would be up to date by April 15.  He said his latest version reads in Section 1, “whichever comes last.” “This way, we wouldn’t have to come back in case we couldn’t determine the aggregate by April 15th,” he explained.

Councilman Terry McClain made a motion to approve the resolution with the wording changed from “first” to “last” in Section 1. Councilman Jody Greene seconded.  All were in favor.

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