Vidalia borrows $700,000 to pay power bill

Published 1:01 am Friday, April 20, 2018


NATCHEZ — A more than $700,000 shortfall led Vidalia leaders on Thursday to take out a line of credit to cover the town’s power bill due today.

Aldermen discussed two options: The first being to free up money from the town’s reserve fund of hydroelectric plant royalties to make the payment.

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By voting that measure down, the aldermen effectively decided instead to use credit to cover the expenses. The line of credit, Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said, would carry a “very small” interest rate, though he could not say exactly what the number was.

The town could not make the payment because of revenues Vidalia had yet to receive, City Accountant Debra Moak said.

The reason Vidalia was short on cash, Craft said, stems from his decision to cut down on residents’ utilities bill from September 2016 to December 2017, which saved residents a total of $2.1 million, but also cost the town that amount of revenue.

“If you want to blame me for that, blame me,” Craft said. “I overdid it.”

Alderwoman Sabrina Dore said she “personally applauded” Craft for that decision, but she questioned why something did not occur that would mitigate this shortfall.

Thinking ahead, Craft pointed to the $3.1 million in hydro royalties from the Sidney A. Murray Jr. Hydroelectric Station, which he said the town would receive on May 1. He also discussed the prospect of Project Blue, which he said could bring in upwards of $12 million, depending on if the company meets certain incentives.

That notion prompted a debate amongst officials about that project’s merit. The manufacturing company behind the project agreed to lease the former Fruit of the Loom building to carry out its operations, though the company has yet to begin those operations.

Aldermen Dore, Tommy Probst and Tron McCoy all made remarks questioning whether the company had been afforded too much leeway with its payments to the town.

The company, Craft said, would pay the town $450,000 after closing documents are signed, which could happen in approximately three weeks, Craft said tentatively.