Piedmont council hears concerns over utility billing change
by Laura Gaddy
Aug 07, 2013 | 3049 views |  0 comments | 72 72 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — Responding to constituent outcry, the Piedmont City Council is considering restoring the late-payment date for customers’ utility bills to what it had been prior to a recent council vote.

Earlier this year the council approved fixing the late-payment date on the 10th of each month, rather than the 15th. The change was to take effect in October.

At Tuesday’s meeting, however, Councilman Ben Keller said the change would be unfair to people on fixed incomes. Keller said 15 people approached him in one day to protest the change. Councilwoman Mary Bramblett said her constituents are also worried about the change.

“They said it was a problem, and if it was a problem for them, it’s a problem for me,” Bramblett said.

Officials said that they already make late-fee exceptions for people who are on a fixed income and receive their monthly checks after the cutoff date, but Keller and Bramblett are still concerned. Keller asked the council to reconsider the change and plan to discuss the matter at the next meeting.

In response, Bill Baker, who presided over the meeting Tuesday as mayor pro tem in the absence of Mayor Rick Freeman, said a committee will review the policy change once more before it goes into effect.

Baker also asked City Clerk Michelle Franklin to ask the mayor to reconsider a change that leaves council members locked out of administrative offices at city hall. Councilman Frank Cobb brought up the concern.

“We’re not criminals,” Cobb said. “That’s the people’s building.”

Council members said Freeman placed a lock with a key code on doors that lead to the administrative offices, a move that keeps council members from freely entering. The city placed a small bell at the front window, which council members and the public ring to get service at the city office.

At the same time the council members’ mailboxes were moved out of the administrative area into a common area, Cobb said.

“I really feel like I shouldn't have to announce myself when I walk in the building,” Cobb said. “I would really like to hear someone else’s opinion. If nobody else thinks I’m right, I’ll shut up.”

Baker said the mayor installed the locks because he believed someone may have moved things around on his desk while he was away, and to ensure the safety of the employees that work there.

“I did enjoy the freedom of going back as needed, but if it’s a protection thing I don’t have a problem with it,” Baker said.

Councilman Kenny Kelley agreed with Cobb.

“I really think you hit the nail on the head,” Kelley said.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.
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