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City passes gas rate increase on final reading
Oct 06, 2006 12:00 am
Councilors voted to increase the city's natural gas rate Tuesday, although city officials say falling gas prices will mean 20-percent lower bills for customers even with the hike.
The vote again fell even 3-3, with Mayor Don Fox casting the deciding vote.
"I thought about this and I knew it would go 3-3 so the mayor could raise the rates," Fox said.
He said it was "the responsibility of the Lebanon City Council" to raise rates.
"The deficit was there last year for all to see," Fox said. "… I'll take on the Council's responsibility and vote yes," adding the Council should "step up to the plate."
Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler – who had voted against the increase – snapped back at the mayor, calling Fox's remarks "a spin."
"I'm representing the people in my ward, and it sounds like to me you don't think we need a rate increase," Buhler said.
Fox said the spin came from "those over here on the right" evidently referencing Buhler, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston and Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer, all of whom voted against the rate increase.
Voting for the increase were Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes, Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry and Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath.
The city buys gas at a predetermined rate, and Warmath said she wanted the public to understand councilors were voting to increase the margin the city charges over and above that predetermined rate.
As for Barry, he said he didn't like the "waste and inefficiences" reported in the gas department, but said it was time for councilors to make the responsible decision.
"It is the only responsible business decision I can make," Barry said.
In voting against the increase Farmer said he felt city administration was unconcerned about instances of waste and misuse of city equipment and manpower in city government.
"I've come to the conclusion I could not support" the rate increases, Farmer said.
In other business, Fox said he wanted to reconsider making the city's eight railroad intersections silent crossings, which means the train would not have to blow its warning whistle when crossing streets.
He said it was in response to numerous complaints about the train's whistle – which resonates at up to 110 decibels – blowing throughout the day.
However, Fox said the estimated $550,000 cost could be prohibitive, and that adding the crossings could ultimately make the city liable legally should any accidents occur at the crossing.
"When the city declares it a quiet zone … the city could be party to liability suits," Fox said.
Councilors also approved The Ridge and Reserve at Stoney Farm, a massive subdivision with more than 600 homes in the Cairo Bend Road area.
The developers have agreed to set aside about 15 acres of land for a future school there, to be built by the Wilson County School system.
Councilors voted to add a provision which would deed the 15 acres to the city – as opposed to the county – if the county does not commit within the next seven years to building a school there. If the land were to revert to Lebanon, the city would have to use the land for recreational purposes such as a park.
Staff Writer Jason Cox may be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.