published Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Council approves natural gas fee


by Cliff Hightower

The Chattanooga City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night that could jack up gas users’ bills by $23 this year, with the amount going up through 2015.

The hike comes as part of a franchise agreement between Chattanooga and Chattanooga Gas Co. that would place a 3.15 percent fee on gas bills this year and next. In two years, the rate goes up to 4.15 percent and, by 2015, the rate would be at 5.15 percent.

The fee is expected to raise about $1.2 million the first year. Customers would pay about $23 more a year.

Councilman Jack Benson peppered Chattanooga Gas Co. officials with questions before the vote, and Councilwoman Deborah Scott called for reworking the deal. But in the end, the council passed the measure on a 7-2 vote.

“I want to know what that franchise fee is going to and the ratepayers want to know, too,” Benson said during the council meeting.

HOW THEY VOTED

The Chattanooga City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to charge a 3.15 percent franchise fee on Chattanooga gas customer bills.

For:

  • Carol Berz
  • Pam Ladd
  • Russell Gilbert
  • Andraé McGary
  • Peter Murphy
  • Manny Rico
  • Sally Robinson

Against:

  • Jack Benson
  • Deborah Scott

The agreement will now go before the Tennessee Regulatory Authority for approval.

Benson also had worries about how the TRA would see the actions by the council. During an earlier meeting Tuesday, he said the council’s approval of the fee might make it easier for the TRA to give the final OK.

“It pretty well greases it,” Benson said.

Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, agreed.

“I think the TRA would take our recommendation,” he said.

In the regular council meeting, Councilman Peter Murphy said the city needed the revenue. He said roads would deteriorate in the future from street cuts made by the gas company to work on its lines and the extra revenue would help.

In other news, the City Council voted 9-0 Tuesday night to support state legislation by state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and State Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, to move legal notices from the newspaper to the Internet.

The city expects to save about $75,000 a year on the move.

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