Vidalia residents bring concerns to town hall meeting

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017


VIDALIA — Utilities, beautification and police presence were some of the concerns Vidalia residents brought to the districts 1 and 2 town hall meeting Tuesday.

Resident Ruth Powers said she understood utility bills would likely remain higher than the regional average in the short term, but she said some elderly people on a fixed income need relief from the high bills.

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Powers said she has a neighbor who is more than 90 years old who after spending a week in the hospital was afraid to turn on the air conditioner when she got home.

“She was afraid she was not going to be able to pay the utility bill,” Powers said. “She is not the only elderly person I have talked to. Many have to make decisions between medicine and power, food and power and various things like that.”

Vidalia TRIAD Officer and Neighborhood Watch Coordinator Georgeanna Berry said the LaSalle Community Action Association in Ferriday would help residents with utility bills.

Powers said she has worked with third-party assistant agencies before, and the problem with them is they can only pay out when they have funding. Powers said she would like to see Vidalia take care of its people.

District 1 Alderman Tron McCoy said District 3 Alderwoman Sabrina Doré has spelled out methods, such as paying less debt off, in which the town could lower rates. McCoy said he would like to see the town lower rates across the board instead of cherry pick people.

“Poor people are proud to, and they don’t necessarily want to say, ‘I need help or can’t turn the air conditioner on,’” McCoy said. “I go with Mrs. Berry to some of these homes and it is 80 to 85 degrees in some of these houses. It ain’t because they don’t want it on.”

Mayor Buz Craft said Vidalia residents are paying 12 cents per kilowatt hour, while Entergy customers in the region are paying 8 cents per kWh.

Resident Bill McDonough said debt and expenses from the previous administration is why residents are paying above the average rate.

“They just have a lot of expenses that they have inherited that they can’t get rid of. When you owe money, you have to pay it,” McDonough said. “The only way to get it is from utility bills.”

Craft said he has had a utility bill as high as $600, and he agrees the rates are too high. Craft said the town could lower utility rates, but it would likely come at the expense of services.

“We might have to go to once a week trash pick up,” he said. “We might lose firemen, our fire rating and police patrols.

“We are going to get utility rates down. We have been here a year, and we have been working.”

Greatery Dotson was one of a few residents who said he does not see police patrols any longer. He said they do not come when residents call.

“They are parked at stores (on Carter Street) or under the bridge,” Dotson said.

Vidalia Police Department Assistant Chief Dennis Cowan said when a resident calls in a complaint, an officer would show up. Cowan said police are patrolling every street.

Dotson said he does watch for patrols outside and he never sees the police. Cowan said he would look into their complaints.

Resident Cassandra Lynch said on Walnut Street, the police do patrol and respond.

“My mother fell while I was at a town hall meeting,” Lynch said. “I called the police, and before I could get from town hall to Walnut Street not only were police there, but the firemen were there taking care of my mother.”

District 2 Alderman Robert Gardner said he encouraged residents to call the police.

“If you see something that is not normal, call them,” he said. “If it takes two times to get them there, and it should not, but if it does, keep calling them.”

Grass, abandoned buildings, lots and vehicles were also discussed. Town Manager Bill Murray said he is getting ready to send out notices to 15 to 18 owners about blight throughout all the wards and some of them on Carter Street.

Lynch said when the town starts tearing down these houses, she hoped they had a plan for the animals.

“I am worried about the four-legged creatures and no-legged creatures scattering out in the town,” she said. “Once you take their habitat away, they are going to scatter someplace else.”

Murray said skunks would also be a concern. Murray said the town would have a plan for dealing with the nuisance animals.

Craft thanked residents for showing up to the town hall meeting. Craft said he planned to hold such meetings at least once a year.

“This is how democracy works,” Craft said. “If no one shows up, it’s just me and the aldermen and no one in town knows what’s going on.

“More than one person has said to me, ‘Buz, you are being too transparent.’  No I am not. Everyone needs to know what is going on. If we all work together, this town has a great future.”