Alexandria City Council votes down utility disconnect ordinance
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - In a 4-2 vote with one abstaining, the Alexandria City Council voted down an ordinance that would have set restrictions for when the City of Alexandria cannot disconnect utility services to customers.
The votes were as follows:
- Cynthia Perry (District 3)
- Reddex Washington (District 1)
- Lizzie Felter (District 4)
- Jim Villard (At-Large)
- Lee Rubin - (At-Large)
- Chuck Fowler - (District 5)
- Gary Johnson (District 2)
Councilwoman Perry was behind the ordinance, even calling the measure, “not debatable and common sense.”
“We’re doing this to help the citizens, so why would we have to debate something that would benefit our city?” asked Perry.
The ordinance would have set regulations for when utility service cannot be disconnected in extreme weather conditions, mirroring a guideline that utility companies regulated by the Louisiana Public Service Commission like Cleco must follow. Under their regulations, LPSC-regulated companies are banned from cutting off utilities when a heat advisory is issued.
Councilwoman Felter claims the City of Alexandria already follows a policy set forth by the LPSC.
“Another thing I was concerned about was the need for the ordinance in the first place,” said Felter. “According to our policy for the City of Alexandria, we don’t cut off during extreme heat issues.”
Despite these claims, during KALB’s investigation into the utility department over the summer, Alexandria’s Utility Director Mike Marcotte told News Channel 5 via email in June that “there are no rules and regulations that detail the parameters when the City ‘CANNOT’ disconnect utilities.”
Marcotte also added in KALB’s investigation that under Mayor Jacques Roy, the city is explicitly directed by the mayor to follow the LPSC guidance, despite there being no written rule to reference.
Also, if the City did follow those guidelines, the utility department would not have shut off utility services to customers back on June 26, as KALB’s investigation revealed. That same day that there were disconnections, a heat advisory was in place.
“If something was in place, why did those utilities get disconnected?” questioned Perry.
Councilwoman Perry said she wrote the ordinance to protect customers, even those behind on their bills, from utility disconnections during extreme weather. This summer alone, there have been dozens of days with triple-digit temperatures. If Perry’s measure would have been approved, it would have essentially made LPSC’s guidelines a law for Alexandria.
While Perry and Councilman Reddex Washington say the ordinance was necessary, others disagreed.
“No other place has an ordinance like this,” said Felter. “Sometimes when you are looking at utilities, we are private, other places like Cleco and Entergy are public, so when they have procedures and guidelines, it’s not putting it into law like when you are a municipality.”
“The main thing we missed out I feel is the difference between policy and ordinance,” said Washington. “A policy can change day-to-day from the administration. It doesn’t matter if it’s this administration or the next administration, a policy can change. Once we put forth an ordinance, we set a law that says what Alexandria, Louisiana will follow.”
As it stands, there are no regulations written into the city code that the Alexandria Utility Department must follow as it relates to utility disconnections in extreme weather conditions.
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