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Citizens Against High Utility Bills plan protest rally

Published 12:59pm Saturday, June 8, 2013

FRANKLIN—The Citizens Against High Utility Bills met Thursday night and called for several actions, including a rally to be held Monday night at city hall before the City Council meeting.

The Citizens group has said the protest rally planned for Monday night is because of unresolved issues surrounding high utility bills with “the latest cause for protest attributed to the city manager transferring electric department profit (revenue) to the general fund and treating the transfer as an expense.”

Dr. Linwood Johnson, spokesperson for the Citizens group confirmed that a rally is planned for 5 p.m. Monday at City Hall; prior to a council meeting at 7 p.m. City officials have also confirmed that a permit for a gathering has been issued.

When asked about the charge about the city manager transferring electric department money to the general fund, City Manager Randy Martin explained that the city does transfer money annually and has for decades. He said he does not have the authority to transfer funds, only city council does and added that the amount authorized by council is lower now that it has been in past years. Martin explained that approximately $1.4 million is moved over annually to “keep the tax rate down.” He further noted that if such transfers were stopped, then an increase in the tax rate would have to occur to compensate to the tune of 24 to 25 cents per $100. He added that council looks at that transfer during the budget process annually.

Linwood Johnson also confirms that the Citizens group has found candidates to run against incumbent council members in the next city council election. Johnson said they had found “people of interest” to look at running for Ward 3 and 5 seats, currently held by Greg Mclemore and Mary Hilliard and possibly Ward 6, currently held by Donald Blythe. But Johnson said, “We have great respect for him (Blythe)” and would not oppose him if he chooses to run again.

Another concern the Citizens group has is possibly seeking legal actions against the City for the way it responded to Freedom of Information requests. Johnson said, “We are looking at investigating that issue.” Johnson and the group is taking issue against the invoices the city sent when providing the documents requested from citizens. He said eight individuals asked questions in writing about electric problems related to their individual households. “Without allowing us to review the information – it was sent to us. An individual is allowed to review the information before receiving it but everything was processed and sent with a bill.” He insists that is not the way to respond to a FOIA request.

Martin says the city complied with the FOIA requests according to the law. He said if a request for records is made in writing, the city is obligated to respond, which it did. “We did it in the required time table and responded in writing to each and sent it to them with an invoice for the lowest cost allowed under the statute for the printing costs and clerical staff time.”

He added, “None of them have paid it.”

He explained that it took a lot of time to provide the documents requested under the FOIA, including blocking out personal billing information. “It was time consuming,” he said.

Johnson had made a further FOIA request on behalf of the entire group, but when he was informed by the city that his request would cost upwards of $200, he has put that request on hold for the time being, saying he got the information he needed in another way.

Martin says in recent months power usage has been significantly lower and citizen bills have reflected that. He indicated he hasn’t had anyone come in recently in regard to the high bills; just people who are in arrears and need help catching up.

He feels, “Customers are much more aware in how much energy they use.” He said he is glad to keep giving tips to lower usage and send people to the correct agencies to get assistance. “The city, through different agencies in the community, gave well over $300,000 in assistance this year. We will continue to help people who qualify with cooling and heating assistance.”

  • Masknup

    I would first of all like to say to Greg McLemore just how pathetic he made the City of Franklin look tonight on the local news. Anyone from out of town that saw that news clip of him speaking to council would quickly dismiss any notion of doing business here in Franklin.

    Secondly, I propose to the City of Franklin to get out of the power business and let Dominion Power handle the power needs of Franklin (if they would be crazy enough to do so). I would love to see these folks who owe money to the City of Franklin do any better with Dominion. I can guarantee you that the power would be cut off and there would be no one in government to be able to cry to and make a public spectacle of how silly and childish one can be.

    Suggest Removal

  • spider68

    If Linwood Johnson thinks for one second that the voters of this city will elect candidates put forth by this special interest group. He is operating out in never-never land.

    Suggest Removal

  • broman

    Sounds like the eight individuals sent the FOIA bills to Mr. Johnson. As they should.

    Suggest Removal

  • TaxMax

    Are we missing the $300,000 in assistance already??? It would be interesting to know how many people got some of the $300,000. Maybe we need a group called Concerned Citizens Who Don’t Get Any Free Money BUT Want To Know Who Does!

    Suggest Removal

  • oobuc79

    They want people who work 40 hrs a week to pay their bills. Not going to happen. If you do not have the money then u will not have power.

    Suggest Removal

  • boomercitizen

    Sick and tired of people that think they are entitled to get something for nothing. There are the truly needed and then there are the ones that try to push and game the system. Sounds to me like this organization is the latter and has no credibility with the responsible citizens. . Why? There is no discrimination or conspiracy in the generation of the utility bills. Does anyone honestly believe the City would put themselves in that position?

    The transfer from the electric company to the general fund HAS been going on for decades. If it is stopped, there will have to be another tax. And I would just as soon if there is going to be another tax, it is a “use tax” rather than an increase in property taxes. The homeowners can take but so much more taxation. Time to tax the renters who use our schools, our roads, etc. IF there is any NEW tax.

    Suggest Removal

  • handkusp45

    This group has no credibility whatsoever. Most people believe they are just trying to get something for nothing.

    Suggest Removal

  • Dakota01

    everyone wants a free ride take responsibility for your own situation……oh rite that’s not the new way it’s always someone elses fault.Grow up

    Suggest Removal

  • Dakota01

    I have got this great idea on how to lower your energy bills it’s called insulation and updated windows and doors. I know some of them are rental property how bout holding your landlord accountable.

    Suggest Removal

  • employee2

    Just Dr. Johnson trying to keep his name in the news until the next Mayor election. He is using these people for HIS gain.

    Suggest Removal

  • TaxMax

    If everyone works until 5:00pm how are they going to get to the rally by 5:00pm??? Oh…. nevermind…

    Suggest Removal

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