published Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

LaFayette approves electricity price hike

Wayne Swanson says he's never voted for a rate increase in the more than 12 years he's been a city councilman in LaFayette, Ga.

Until Monday night, that is, when Swanson was part of a 3-to-2 majority on the council who approved what should amount to a $10 to $11 a month price hike for the average customer's electricity bill.

"This is just to pay for the clean coal," said Swanson, referring to the city's extra $939,000 cost this year to buy electricity from the Municipal Electric Association of Georgia.

"If we do not do this, we would have to lay employees off, we would have to furlough employees -- and that still wouldn't have been enough," Swanson said.

City Manager Frank Etheridge said the additional expense is because of federal regulations requiring cleaner energy. Etheridge says the city had to pass the extra cost on to its 3,905 customers.

"To those on a fixed income, it's an impact. I admit that," Etheridge said.

Councilmen Chris Davis and Ben Bradford voted against the measure.

In other business, council unanimously approved picking up residents' garbage once per week, instead of twice, for the month of May to see how much money that saves the city.

"Give us one month to show what we can do," is how Etheridge described the one-month experiment. He estimates that switching to once-per-week trash pickup will save the city $30,000 a year on diesel fuel, alone.

The city spent about $100,000 more than it took in last year from garbage collection fees, which are $14.50 per month for a residential customer, and had to make up the difference through the city's general fund, Etheridge said.

Residents who previously had trash collected on Monday and Thursday will switch to Thursday only, while those who had Tuesday and Friday pickup will switch to Tuesdays only.

The city will analyze the savings, and council will then decide whether to make the once-per-week trash collection permanent.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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