Vidalia utilities ordinance passes

Published 12:02 am Thursday, February 14, 2019


VIDALIA — Vidalia utilities customers will soon be paying slightly more for the water they use but the rates for all other utilities will remain unchanged after aldermen passed an ordinance to that effect during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen.

The board passed the utility rate ordinance on a 3-2 vote with aldermen Sabrina Doré and Tommy Probst voting against it after a spirited debate that lasted almost two hours.

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Vidalia residents would be charged slightly more for the amount of water they use, because the previous water rate would not cover operation costs, Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said.

Meanwhile, all other utility costs and services — meaning gas, electric, sewage and garbage pickup — would be unchanged, Craft said, and any changes to the utility rates moving forward would require approval from the board of aldermen.

Doré said she was not satisfied with setting the electricity costs as they are.

Doré said she does not believe the rates would be low enough to entice more people to live in Vidalia while large industrial facilities using the most electricity have the biggest advantage.

“Our cash flow for our utilities is so tight … but we have these fantastic rates for large industrial facilities,” Doré said. “We talk about giving economic development incentives to attract these businesses, and that’s important. We need those jobs — but the lady who is 85 years old who can’t turn on her air conditioner because it costs too much can’t go and apply for those jobs. … Where is the break for the small business owners … and the residents?”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, aldermen voted to give the city clerk a $10,000 a year pay raise, with Doré casting the sole dissenting vote.

Doré said she believed the raise wouldn’t be fair to other city employees and was opposed to granting an 18-percent pay raise to one person after their first year on the job.

Officials said Jay Lasyone started to fill the duties of city clerk after Vicki Byrnes retired from the position in 2017. Byrnes had a salary of $75,000 per year. However, Lasyone took her position with a starting salary of only $55,000.

“If I’m an employee in this town who has been here for five to 10 years and am only offered a 3-percent increase in pay, and this position — after one year — is offered an 18-percent increase, I question, why?” Doré said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, several officials and residents argued Lasyone should be paid for the work he does. Craft said when the rest of the town’s employees receive raises for the cost of living increase, the clerk’s pay would not be adjusted.

“We may offer the rest of the town’s employees a 3.8-percent increase in pay next year, but he is not going to be in that conversation because his pay is set by ordinance,” Craft said.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting, the board:

  • Unanimously approved occupational licenses, beer and liquor licenses and sign applications for local businesses.
  • Unanimously approved a request for bids for a new bucket truck for the utility department to replace an older model. A new truck may cost approximately $165,000, officials said.
  • Unanimously approved a resolution to accept a Department of Environmental Quality audit of the town’s wastewater treatment facilities.