At the urging of Piedmont electrical operations superintendent Phillip Johnson, the council voted unanimously to spend $48,000 to improve two municipal power substations. The substations are a critical part of the city-operated power system and without improvements the city can’t supply power to all of its customers when the electrical demand peaks.
Separately, the City Council postponed a decision to increase utility start-up fees, an increase recommended by electric superintendent Casey Ponder. Council members cited concerns that the move might be unfair to some residents.
Under the proposal, renters would have to pay $400 for utility deposits, while homeowners would have to pay $300. City officials who support the policy say the move would help the city recoup revenue lost to renters who leave without paying their last month’s bill.
Councilwoman Brenda Spears said she thought the decision would be a mistake.
“It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Spears said. “You cannot discriminate between the people who can afford a house and the people who rent.”
After Spears spoke Mayor Rick Freeman recommended that the council table the matter.
The meeting closed amid controversy after Spears said the city clerk and mayor withheld public records from her, but City Clerk Michelle Franklin and the mayor disagreed.
Spears said she asked for “single page utility sheets” for the months of February, March, April and May, but did not receive them. City officials said the sheets contain the names of each person who failed to pay their utility bills for each of those months.
“From this action, in my opinion, I am being harassed and intimidated by them,” Spears read from a prepared statement.
Franklin said she did not provide the documents because the mayor did not authorize her to provide them. She disputed Spears’ remarks.
“I didn’t deny you any public records,” Franklin said.
Freeman said he has not yet provided the documents because he was concerned it was not lawful to release them because they include residents’ names.
In other business the council:
— Appointed Kesha Mitchell to the Piedmont City School Board.
— Selected Mike Ledbetter to be the chief of the Piedmont Fire Department.
— Discontinued an agreement for animal control services with the Calhoun County Animal Control Center.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.