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Council Takes Action On Zoning Requests, Hears Plan For High Risk Utility Customers

By Sue Curry Jones

Three properties were re-zoned Tuesday evening during city council meeting and received full approval of the Ava Board of Aldermen.  The zoning classification modifications had been reviewed by planning and zoning, and submitted as follows:

Property owned by Donald and Pearlie Breshears, 208 SE 8th Street, was changed from agriculture dis­trict to R-2 two family residential;

Property owned by Ms. Hillary Persinger and Mrs. Helen Persinger, 300 SE 8th Street, was changed from agriculture district to R-2 two-family residential; and

Property owned by Chester Twitty III,  SE 8th Street, was changed from agriculture to R-2 two family residential.

Judy Shields, executive director of the Ava Area Chamber of Com­merce, presented council with an update of Chamber activities and the organization’s quarterly report and financials.

Shields reported to the group she had recently attended a legislative gathering held at MOCH Wellness Center in Ava, on Thursday, Dec. 1.  The objective of the get-together was to pique the interest of legislators and representatives, and  cultivate interest in the needs and offerings of the community. The meeting was attended by local community members, city officials, several state representatives and one senator.

The Chamber is also making plans to put a new design on the billboard located on south Hwy. 5.

Shields noted the Chamber ended the year 2011 with  a membership of 168 participants.

Janice Lorrain, Director of Planning  Development, said the city had requested additional funds for capping wells, and had recently been notified they had received an award under the Source Water Protection plan update.  The money, which is available until April 2012, is fully funded and a match is not required.

Council members voted to adopt a loss prevention manual and ready reference book for city employees.  Administrative Director Peggy Porter explained most of the policies included in the manual are standard rules and procedures that have been indexed, paginated and organized into one book.  The manual, which explains issues such as liability control, safety incentives, work zone procedures, etc., will be given to all city employees.

A proposal to change city utility deposit amounts and tighten-up city requirements for providing utility service to customers with a history of non-payment, was reviewed and discussed by council members on Tuesday evening.

On average one non-paying customer is leaving behind an unpaid bill of at least $365, Porter said, and this outstanding amount has already taken into consideration the deposit placed on the account.

Calculated over 18-months, delinquencies to utility coffers total $57,000.  This amount registers as an out-of-pocket expense for the City of Ava, and serves as a determining factor in establishing the overall rate for city residents.  In other words, city residents who pay on time and maintain their account as required, are paying the price for those who don’t pay.  Or won’t.

Porter noted most non-paying customers are frequent offenders, and if possible, they will repeat the wrongdoing.  For others, the process has become a way to out-maneuver the system, and the city.

Nonetheless, the standards need to be strengthened so the city can protect itself and the community from non-paying customers, and curtail the costs associated with the rising number of unpaid balances.

Porter noted many communities use an on-line utility exchange to determine an applicant’s payment history. This step allows the utility to require a deposit that parallels the level of risk associated with the applicant’s credit history.  As the risk level increases, so does the customer’s deposit.

The deposit amount suggested for the City’s high-risk customers was a minimum of $400.

Under the proposed plan, it was also recommended landlords and tenants file a joint form in the utility office in acknowledgement of their agreement.  The fill-in-the-blank document would provide pertinent information to city employees, and also serve to protect the landlord and tenant from an unauthorized service termination or name change without consent. It would also give the name of the person liable for the bill.

No action on the plan was taken by council.

The December Municipal Court docket was approved as presented, and monthly bills approved for payment.

The meeting Tuesday evening was facilitated by Burrely Loftin, president of the Board of Aldermen.  Mayor Eddie Maggard was absent due to illness.

Council members in attendance were Loftin, Ric Engelhardt, Judy Lovan and Billy Long.

The next meeting of council will be held Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 5 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.