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Piedmont rejects offer from Spire to buy city gasworks

PIEDMONT The Piedmont City Council at its meeting Tuesday did not accept a $4.2 million offer from Spire Energy to purchase the city's gas system.

“We will continue to be Piedmont Gas,” Mayor Bill Baker said.

A motion was made by Councilman Matt Rogers to accept the offer, but no second was made, so no vote was taken.

Discussions with Spire, which operates a neighboring system to Piedmont’s natural gas delivery system, have been ongoing since last October.

Reynolds Anderson, director of business development at Spire, was at the meeting to make a final presentation to the council.

“This is an opportunity for the city to get the gas system debt-free,” Anderson said. “With our offer on the table, it will get the city close.”

According to Anderson, the city had close to $4 million in debt for the gas system.

“I'm looking at what's best for the city and citizens,” Rogers said. “There's a lot of debt, and we've got to do something. A company could come in and better our infrastructure.”

Councilman Ben Keller stated he would be against the offer if a vote was taken.

“If someone else wants to buy this out, they know there’s money to be made,” Keller said. “Why are we going to sell to somebody else so they can make money?”

 The council asked Bryian Watts, the city's water, gas and sewer manager, to weigh in on the offer prior to consideration.

“Our system is worth more than that in my opinion,” Watts said. “We're doing everything we can to make money.”

Rogers, in his time to give a report from his district, stated that his motion that the council accept the offer did not mean he had any misgivings about Watts and the current gas system.

“I know I said some things about the gas system tonight,” Rogers said. “Now that it’s over, I do want to say that I’m 100 percent behind Bryian.”

The council also entered into an executive session to discuss potential litigation at the beginning of the regular meeting, remaining behind closed doors for about 30 minutes.

Baker offered no comment on the discussions upon return, other than to thank attendees for their patience.

In other business, the council:

  • Voted to reallocate $15,000 that had been set aside to pay for billboards to fund small repairs and lighting to the city’s downtown gazebo. 

  • Voted to ask the city attorney, Anniston-based Ron Allen, to be present at council meetings in the future. Councilman Bobby Hardin brought up the possibility during his report and made the motion. Keller was the only no vote, citing the cost to the city.

  • Decided to wait on a vote to deed 10 acres of city land to the Piedmont Commercial Development Authority for lease to an unnamed company that raises Labrador retriever dogs to be sold to training companies. The council asked Lane Weatherbee, chairman of the CDA, to supply more information before a vote is held.

  • Heard a presentation from a representative of Musco for a new lighting system for the city's sports complex. According to a "materials-only quote" in the presentation, the new LED-based system would cost the city at least $325,000. The city did not vote on the new system.

  • Declared October to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or danielmayesstar@gmail.com. On Twitter @DMayes_Star.

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