Vidalia to get utility rates analyzed

Published 7:34 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018


VIDALIA — A change in utility rates in Vidalia could be on the horizon after Mayor Buz Craft Tuesday announced he would bring in two companies to discuss the possibility of providing an analysis of the town’s utility rates.

“I know we’ve discussed rates earlier in my administration, and it’s my feeling that we should have studies done,” Craft said in Tuesday night’s meeting.

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The companies, Nowlins and Associates Inc. and BHA Inc., would provide an analysis of all utility rates in the town.

Nowlins and Associates would charge approximately $14,300 for the study, whereas BHA Inc. would charge approximately $17,200.

Alderwoman Sabrina Dore said she had some doubts about the scope of the study.

“Do we need to do a study on rates? Absolutely,” she said.  “Do we need to spend $20,000 for somebody to tell us we’re running a deficit in water and what we need to do to the bill?”

Though the discussion began with aldermen considering the pros and cons of the study, the conversation quickly devolved into an older, more divisive debate.

Dore has for several months vied for a 9-cent per kilowatt hour flat, fixed rate for electricity consumers and an 11-cent flat rate for commercial customers, which Craft said would break an already stressed budget.

In order to offset the decline in revenue that would result from a flat utility rate, Craft said cuts would be necessary and, likely, at least some of those cuts would be to personnel staff.

Dore said she regretted the implication that she would want to cut personnel — particularly police and fire department personnel.

“The discussion of lowering utility rates always seems to circle back to ‘Well, the guys it pays are worth it.’ Absolutely,” Dore said, leaning forward in her seat to look at Craft. “They are worth it, and that is never the insinuation of any aldermen on this board — that the reduction in utilities should result in the layoff or firing or lowering of pay of any of these guys. And the insinuation that that is what that will cost is getting old.”

Craft, hands folded in front of his face, suddenly turned toward Dore.

“Are you talking to me?” Craft said.

“I am,” Dore said.

“Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa,” Craft said. “What you were saying about lowering the rate to a 9-cent flat rate? They could all be laid off because you didn’t even know how much money you would be talking about.”

“Oh, I knew exactly how much,” Dore said.

Discussion continued for approximately 64 minutes, though very little of the discussion concerned the possible rate analysis work.

After the meeting, Craft said the meeting between the town and the consulting companies should be set up some time in the coming week.

Craft said he did not know how long it would take to complete the study, or when or if any of the suggested changes would be implemented.