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Dearing residents appeal for lower water rates

The Thomson City Council paused July 14 to hear a Dearing resident's appeal to help lower water rates outside Thomson city limits.

The question was not on the agenda, and the council took no action.

Ray Silverstein led a delegation of five Dearing residents. "They are concerned about the high water bill that they have to pay," Silverstein said.

Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry obliged Silverstein's request to state his case.

Usry did not rule out the possibility that the measure will come before the council again. "We'll let you know," Usry said.

Silverstein had appealed for townspeople to attend the meeting to plead for unified water rates. Dearing would receive the greatest relief from that plan. Thomson residents would see comparatively smaller increases. Silverstein said he had contacted hundreds of people to support his attempt.

Dearing leaders, however, had chosen not to visit the Thomson council. Mayor Sean Kelley said to attend unannounced and uninvited would not be respectful and would not be productive. He said he is staying in touch with other leaders who can influence the direction of water rates in Dearing.

The proposed rate consolidation failed on a 3-2 vote at the city council's April 21 meeting. The measure already had been endorsed by the joint city-county water-sewer commission, and had survived a 3-2 vote by the county commissioners.

Since that council action, there has been no formal discussion of the rate structure.

Water rates differ in parts of the county because the projects that provided service were created by different grants or funding mechanisms.

Officials have said there was a longstanding consensus that rates would be leveled eventually. The proposed water agreement was to have opened the way for a similar agreement on sewer rates over the next few years. Usry had been firm on a timetable for phasing in limited rate increases for Thomson. That proposed pact also calls for the county to pressure those who have sewer service available to tap into the system and increase revenue.

In other action, the council voted to buy a new odorizer for the city gas department.

Natural gas has no odor, but an unpleasant odor is added to gas lines to help call attention to any leaks.

"That's where the rotten-egg smell comes from," Usry said.

City Administrator Don Powers said the unit in use now is 41 years old, the cost of repairs is high, and the supply of parts is in question.

Marie Co. Inc. submitted the low and winning bid of $21,310 for delivery and installation of the new unit and decommissioning of the old unit. Other bids came from: Odorization Solutions, $25,500; and Bayou Engineering, $26,280.

The council also bought protective clothing for the fire department. Nafeco of Decatur, Ala., submitted the low and winning bid of $7,024. Municipal Equipment Co. of Orlando, Fla., bid $7,625.

The council also approved a sign ordinance variance for IGA. The new sign had been approved by the city's historic preservation commission. It was described as smaller and more modern than the sign now in place.

In preparation for the municipal election Nov. 8, the council appointed City Clerk Dianne Landers as the election qualifying officer. That process will begin Aug. 29.

Web posted on Thursday, July 21, 2011

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