Fulton bond issue town hall meeting switches gears

Few vocal participants shift discussion toward tenant, renter utility responsiblity

Jim Yancey, left, goes over sewer plant upgrade plans with Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap at a town hall meeting Thursday. A former plant worker, Yancey dropped in toward the end of the meeting to view the changes resulting from an EPA mandate on effluence standards.

Jim Yancey, left, goes over sewer plant upgrade plans with Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap at a town hall meeting Thursday. A former plant worker, Yancey dropped in toward the end of the meeting to view the changes resulting from an EPA mandate on effluence standards. Photo by Dean Asher.

The city of Fulton’s Wards III and IV councilmen held a town hall meeting to answer questions about the upcoming sewer bond issue, but the portion of the town in attendance up had something else on their mind.

Two residents, David McDaniel and Joan Berry Morris, were present when the meeting began 6 p.m. at City Hall. After listening to several city officials explain the nature of the sewer project and the issue voters will be deciding April 8, both used the majority of the question-and-answer period to slam a proposed bill discussed at a Feb. 24 Utility Board meeting that would allow landlords to take on joint liability for their tenant’s utility bills.

The bill, which is not yet completed and has not been presented for the City Council’s consideration, would allow landlords to be jointly responsible for their tenants’ utility bills, in order to cut back costs on the city and other ratepayers for delinquent renters and to keep landlords informed of pending shutoffs despite privacy laws preventing the city from releasing information to anyone besides the utility customer.

McDaniel and Morris, who are both realtors and manage several properties in the Fulton area, said they took issue with being held liable for their tenants’ bills.

“We’re largely concerned with the possibility of property owners and landlords having responsibility for the bill,” McDaniel said. “I can assure you property owners take a lot bigger issue being hung with bills than with their pipes freezing (because utilities were shut off).”

City Chief Financial Officer Kathy Holschlag told the Fulton Sun at the time of the Utility Board meeting that the bill was drafted to help cut back on the $170,000 per year the utility bill loses on renters who miss payments or move without informing the city. It was also viewed as a way to help inform property owners when shutoffs were pending so they could avoid pipes freezing or other problems.

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