Utility penalties proposal advances

The City Council has voted to take up a proposed ordinance reducing municipal penalties against utility customers who do not pay their bills on time.

Councilman Charles Vincent said during Tuesday night’s council meeting where the vote was taken that he has been interested in advancing the legislation for 10 years, but gained the votes to proceed with the measure only with a newly elected council.

He said getting the proposal before the council has been a “huge team effort” involving council members, attorney Ken Fabre and municipal employees.

The ordinance reduces the penalty for a utility disconnection from $60 to $30.

A reconnection fee of $25 still exists, Vincent said.

The new law also would allow a resident to make a payment prior to being disconnected, provided the payment is made by the start of the next business day.

Vincent said the ordinance eliminates the requirement that customers would have to put up additional deposits for delinquent accounts.

“Good citizens” who have paid their utility bills on time will be eligible to get their initial deposit back if requested, Vincent said.

The ordinance, if approved, would remove a requirement that renters’ utility deposits be based on credit or rating scores.

Other business coming before the council included:

FIVE-YEAR PLAN: Mayor Harold Rideau gave council members a draft copy of a five-year economic development plan for Baker.

He told council members to look over the plan and study it and “do not be afraid” to ask questions.

The plan has sections on education development, infrastructure, economic development, leadership and marketing/communications.