Vidalia utility rates dropping

Published 11:33 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008

VIDALIA — Vidalia aldermen rushed to make a motion of approval Tuesday night once they heard the news they’ve been waiting on — utility rates are going down.

But a motion on the matter wasn’t even needed, City Manager Ken Walker said.

Walker announced to the board that electric rates would be decreasing 12 percent in the next billing cycle.

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“Our costs from (the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority) went down,” Walker said. “And we are passing that cost on to the citizens of Vidalia.”

The city received the latest LEPA bill Monday and, after looking at the number, realized they could reduce rates, Walker said.

The city raised rates this summer approximately 20 percent, after the cost of the utilities went up 73 percent. The increase came only after the city first tried to absorb the increases on its own, Walker said.

“This will be a tremendous situation for our customers in Vidalia,” Mayor Hyram Copeland said of the news. “We tried to do the best we could this summer when we had some of the highest rates. We want to continue to (decrease rates). Hopefully we can bring them down some more.”

In other business, the board approved the tax millage for the coming year. The millage will be 3.49, the same it has been for several years.

“I think that is one of the lowest in the state,” Copeland said. “We are proud to keep it at 3.49.”

The board also approved hiring fireman Johnny Evans. Evans will fill a vacancy at the Vidalia Fire Department created when a former employee quit to work in the oil fields, Chief Jack Langston said.

Evans is a former VFD employee with 15 years experience. He was a former shift captain.

Alderman Ricky Knapp asked if the city could take any action to examine the current flood zone, specifically Apple Street.

Apple Street, though it’s miles away from the river, is within the zone. Some homeowners in the area in turn have to purchase flood insurance.

“With Hurricane Gustav (Apple) didn’t get flooded,” Knapp said. “Why does (the area) need flood insurance?”

City Attorney Jack McLemore said it would be almost impossible to change the flood zone. The area around Apple Street is controlled by a pumping station, and the government requires it be within a flood zone.

Copeland said the city has talked with the Corps of Engineers, senators and congressmen about the issue before, but nothing can be changed.

Also, Alderman Vernon Stevens asked that the city write a resolution honoring Logan Sewell, a former city leader who died Monday.