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Council gives relief from utility policy

Staff writer

St. Luke Hospital representatives Bev Reid and Diane Kahns spoke with Marion City Council on Monday about an adjustment to the bill for St. Luke Physician Clinic.

Kahns was confused when the bill for the clinic’s electric meter was combined with a hospital meter on the same transformer. The clinic was two days late on the bill while trying to clarify the matter.

“Normally the hospital is not late,” Kahns said. “It’s the only time we were late.”

Kahns confirmed that the hospital received the bill on time.

The representatives asked the council to wave the 10 percent late fee on the bill, worth $1,010. The representatives said they would purchase a meter from the city to make sure the bills were kept separate.

The council agreed unanimously to wave the penalty on the bill.

The Council was faced with another, more difficult billing decision.

Ernest Barrell spoke to the council in public forum at the end of the meeting. He asked council members to go against the city’s normal policy and turn his electricity back on at his residence, 609 S. Cedar St. Normally, once services are disconnected the bill must be paid in full before they are restored.

Barrell was responsible for two delinquent bills for a total of $558. He only asked for the power to be turned on at 609 S. Cedar St. but he could not pay the lump sum payment of the bill, worth $282, until Dec. 5. He said his gas heat would not work without electricity.

“It’s the wrong time of year to go without electricity,” council member Bill Holdeman said.

Barrell said he usually pays his bills on time by the third of each month, but he could not this month because he moved his parents to a live-in care facility.

“I beg of you,” Barrell said.

The council deliberated on the issue, seeing both sides of the issue.

“If we make an exception on one we’ve got to make an exception down the line,” council member Steve Smith said.

City Administrator Doug Kjellin told the council that there were four residences in the city that were disconnected from services.

Holdeman was Barrell’s biggest supporter on the council. At one point, the council member took out his checkbook and offered to pay part of the bill himself.

“This man is trying to pay this off,” Holdeman said.

The council voted unanimously to turn Barrell’s power back on by Tuesday with the qualification that he must come in by Monday to make a payment on the bill. If Barrell were to not pay any part of the bill, services would be cut off from his residence and he would have to pay the total delinquent sum.

In other business:

  • The council approved a uniform policy change. The $100 reimbursement allowed to employees can now cover jeans and work boots.
  • Kjellin gave an update on the municipal judge search. The city currently has three applicants. Council members continued interviewing applicants Tuesday.
  • Police Chief Josh Whitwell informed the council that he has partnered with Marion County Sheriff’s Office on a program to reward seatbelt use by teenage drivers. Whitwell is planning to enlist the efforts of Marion High School students’ who can inform him about fellow students seat belt habits.
  • Kjellin updated the council on ongoing projects. He said there has not been a bid on the scrap metal at the city shop and he has only received one bid for repair work for Teresa Huffman’s outdoor rock wall.

The next city council meeting will be 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12.

Last modified Dec. 1, 2011

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