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Utility bill break coming to LaFayette residents

LaFAYETTE — LaFayette residents are getting a break on paying an extraordinarily high utility bill for the month of January. They will have to pay that high bill, but they will be given more time to do it.

At an 11:30 a.m. CST called meeting on Friday, the LaFayette City Council unanimously approved an amendment to a city ordinance, extending the cutoff date from February 26 to March 12.

This will help those residents on fixed incomes who get one monthly check. The check they will get at the first of March can be applied to the February payment without a penalty. The March due date has been extended to April 9 to help with those impacted by paying a big bill on March 12th.

“This isn’t something that just affected LaFayette,” Mayor Barry Moody said. “It’s all over the state. The utility bill I got this month was the largest one I’ve ever received. We had some sub-freezing temperatures in January that lasted for an unusual length of time.’

Moody said he is hopeful things will be better with the next cycle. “We took some sample readings for this month, and the utility usage looks to be down from this time a month ago,” he said. “Maybe it won’t be as bad in March.”

Voting for the amendment were Moody and council members Toney Thomas, Michael Ellis and Tammie Williams. Council Member Matt Hurst was absent.

City Attorney Mac Tucker suggested that the city needed a more up-to-date billing system. “It needs to be more efficient and less complicated,” he said.

Without the reprieve that was granted on Friday, many utility customers could have been cut off on Feb. 26th. The established city policy was for the 15th of the month to be the due date for payment. Notices of a cut off of service go out on the 16th. If the bill isn’t paid over the next ten days, utilities will be turned off.

The amendment allows 16 more days before the cutoff.

Council Member Ellis asked if the city could get people to come in and sign something pledging to have the bill paid by March 12th.

“That’s a good idea,” Tucker said.

Moody said this action is being taken out of extraordinary circumstances. “We had people coming to us telling us they couldn’t pay this month’s utility bill,” he said. “We are extending them into March, when they will be getting another check. They can pay the February bill as late as March 12th. They can pay the March bill as late as April 9th.”

Some people won’t be getting their March check until the third week of the month. Moody told the council he would be willing to meet with them on a one-on-one basis to see if a further extension is justified in those circumstances.

Ellis said this situation underscores how important it is to have energy-efficient homes. “Get your home checked to see if you have adequate insulation,” he said. “If you rent, make sure your landlord is up to code on the house you are living in.”

City Administrator Louis Davidson told the council that he’d recently attended a meeting of the Alabama Municipal Electric Authority in Montgomery. (LaFayette is an AMEA member). “They showed us a chart where Mobile had 17 days in January that were below freezing,” he said. “You know we had more than that in this part of the state.”

Moody said the good news is that we are now in a warming trend. “Temperatures are supposed to be in the seventies this weekend,” he said.

On another subject, Lt. George Rampy of the LaFayette Police Department was promoted to the rank off captain. He succeeds Jerome Bailey who recently retired. Ellis made that recommendation on behalf of the council’s Police Committee.

The city will now advertise for someone to fill the vacancy created by Rampy’s promotion.