After failing to come to an agreement on the matter last month, the Zachary City Council decided on a 3-2 vote Tuesday to raise security deposits on water and gas meters.
Water deposits, which currently are $50, will go up to $150. Gas deposits will increase from $150 to $250. The deposits are the same for customers inside and outside city limits.
When the council at a June meeting considered an ordinance raising the deposits, the four members present couldn’t decide how much more to charge, resulting in a tie. They agreed, however, that an increase of some kind was needed because deposit fees hadn’t been changed since the 1980s, and the city has incurred significant debt stemming from unpaid water and gas bills.
The new deposit fees total $400 — the same as what nearby Baker charges, Councilman Brandon Noel said. He noted that Zachary has a higher median income than Baker.
“I think we’re well within the capability of being able to handle that ($400),” he said.
Voting for the deposit increase were Noel, Laura O’Brien and Hunter Landry. Voting no were Francis Nezianya and Lael Montgomery.
“It’s not everybody that has a high income,” Nezianya said. “We have a lot of retirees in the city. We have to make sure to think about them before we raise this.”
O’Brien countered: “Our deposits now don’t cover our bills when (late-paying customers) walk away.”
Montgomery said the city recently has been taking a more proactive approach in turning off service for customers who don’t pay on time.
“We haven’t allowed the process to work,” Montgomery said. “What we have put in place has been working.”
Also on Tuesday:
- A rezoning request and site plan related to the proposed Wicker Place subdivision off Plank Road were pulled from the agenda before the meeting, Mayor David Amrhein said. The items — which encountered intense opposition when presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission in June — were previously tabled by the council because the developer asked for time to make changes. “They’re basically starting over,” Amrhein said, and the revisions are significant enough that the proposal must go before the Planning and Zoning Commission again, likely in September.
- The water tower being built near the Zachary Youth Park should be finished in September, city engineer Bianca Hillhouse said. The council agreed to increase the $1.6 million contract with Professional Engineering Consultants by $34,613. The extra money is needed to replace about 400 feet of 12-inch pipe that connects to a well; the city previously thought the existing pipe could be used, Hillhouse said.
- Amrhein announced that Tommy Womack has stepped down from the Planning and Zoning Commission. Womack is being replaced by Laura Freeman.
- Fred Neal, of the Villavasso and Associates planning firm, said a public workshop will be held Aug. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall about proposed changes to the development code. The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.
- Assistant Police Chief Darryl Lawrence said his department’s new traffic enforcement unit has written 200 to 300 tickets since it began operating July 8. “If we continue the way we’re going, the program will fund itself,” Lawrence said. “Y’all getting any pushback? Anybody griping?” the mayor asked. “Oh yeah,” Lawrence responded to laughter from the audience.