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Ville Platte City Council after two hour hearing votes to table Utility Rate Increase

Ville Platte City Council May 28, 2019 A packed overflow crowd of citizens and business people jammed the Ville Platte City Council meeting room all the way into the outer hallway to voice their concerns and displeasure with a proposed ordinance to raise utility rates on gas, water and sewer by a considerable amount. In the end after more than two hours, the City Council approved tabling a revised recommendation that would have phased in the much higher rates over a two year period. Instead, council members agreed to ask its specialist to go back to the drawing board and extend the increases over a three year period. Also, the council plans to get feed back from members of the community and groups over the revised proposal. Mayor Jennifer Vidrine at times had to slam her gavel several times to get order in the meeting room and threatened at least concerned citizen to have the police escort him out of the meeting room. John Mayeaux, the special bonding consultant, showed a slide presentation at the beginning of the public hearing and said "We heard from you. We will plan to phase in the increases over a two year period". He blamed the problem on not have having any utility rate increases over a 20 year period. He showed references where cities like New Orleans had a phased in rate increase while cities like Youngsville and Pine Ville had an immediate increase. Youngsville increased their rates by 50 percent. His report to the council Tuesday recommended the average residential customer will see a 31 percent increase over 2 years while the average commercial customer will see their utility bills jump by 48 percent. City Attorney Eric Lafleur said it is "painful" for both customers and for the city council to go with a rate hike. The consultant in his research found there were 22 rate classifications for city customers. In other words some customers were treated better than others. That has been corrected. Most residents complained that the city has many poverty level families on fixed incomes that will not be able to pay the increase costs for their utility bills with the city. Renee Brown, representing the Evangeline Chamber of Commerce said the business community had problems with the proposal. She asked that chamber members be able to sit in and help formulate a new rate structure for all customers. She said "We just want to work together as a team." Jay Gielow, of Café Evangeline said he was concerned with a lack of transparency by the city council. "The final numbers should be released to the public and the news media before coming to a meeting so everyone can look over them". Andy Poche' of Healthworks Rehab recommended the city council appoint a committee of residents representing business, industry and residents to work together and come up with a solution. In other action, the city council adopted a new ordinance turning utility customers with delinquent bills of more than two months over to a collection agency. The agency will be able to assess a 25 percent collection fee on these past due customers.

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