City Council ‘put some finality’ to billing issue

Published 7:54 am Wednesday, January 14, 2009

FRANKLIN—The City Council decided to stay the course in pursuing the utility debt owed by businesses and churches who were under billed by the city from 2006-2008.

Attorney Taylor Williams advised the council that out of the 55 churches and businesses informed that they had been under billed, 22 had responded. Six of those customers have satisfied their bills in full in the amount of $26,988.73 total. Out of the remaining 16, eight have signed payment agreements while eight others have called for other information or to discuss the matter.

Williams also advised that all 55 who had yet to make a payment arrangement were billed 1/24th of what they owed along with their usual payment due Jan 20. Franklin resident Carter Hotchkiss, senior warden at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, addressed the council concerning the church’s $1,480 bill.

“I recommend the council take a strong look at this situation. For many of us (churches) this electric bill is going to be a hardship.”

Hotchkiss proposed that if the churches paid their utility bills in full, that the city consider giving a donation back to the churches to help them provide the services like AA meetings and voter polls.

Hotchkiss also suggested that during the next budget cycle, the city council should consider billing churches on a special rate that fell somewhere between business and residential billing.

Franklin resident Greg McLemore also spoke to council, asking it to consider bringing some relief to businesses hit with the bill. “Council should consider who they are working for — the city or the citizens. A lot of these businesses can’t afford that extra bill.”

Vice Mayor Raystine Johnson said, “You wouldn’t believe how many discussions members of the council have had to come up with a solution to this problem.”

She advised that the council would continue to sort out the issue during closed session.

Upon the council’s return to an open forum, Johnson spoke on behalf of council members. “The council has in place a procedure for customers who are experiencing a hardship due to the billing and anyone who was under billed can contact Taylor Williams.”

Councilman Mark Fetherolf said he believes no further actions will be taken.

“I think we’ve put some finality to the issue now,” he said.