Reserve fund created for equipment need

Piedmont city leaders approved a savings fund Tuesday to help pay for unexpected equipment needs.

The fund, which takes effect starting Jan. 1, will collect $10,000 a month from city utility revenue. Also, a vote of the City Council will be needed to spend the fund’s money, and the minimum expenditure will be $10,000.

The council approved the new fund during its regular Tuesday meeting after Councilman Doug Dickeson brought it up as a way to help city departments pay for unexpected equipment purchases.

The council has struggled in the past year to pay to replace broken or old equipment, and vehicles needed by the street and utilities departments to maintain certain city services, like removing leaves from roadways.

“We’ve got to do something,” Dickeson said.

Dickeson said that with the reserve fund, there will be at least something available to help mitigate the problem.

Also during the meeting, the council tabled a vote to refinance two old loans for electrical and water system improvements, which could possibly save the city between $200,000 and $300,000. Three financial firms have approached the council in the past two months with offers to refinance the loans.

Council members wanted to wait to hire one of the firms, and learn more details after Mayor Bill Baker said the refinancing process might get delayed by federal tax code changes. Republicans in Congress are currently hashing out major tax reform legislation.

Baker said he was advised by the three firms that it’s unknown currently how the legislation could affect the refinancing process.

“We won’t be able to do anything until the tax bill is passed,” Baker said.

The council also voted to combine accounts for residential electric, garbage, water, gas and sewer bill payments — a move that will streamline the bill collection process and ensure online bill payments to the city work as intended.

Currently, the city has two accounts, one for electric and garbage bill collections, the other for water, gas and sewer.

Casey Ponder, city electric supervisor, said the separate accounts have kept the city’s online bill payment system from working properly. Residents using the online service are being told by the site that they’re paying their entire bill, but are actually only paying part of it, Ponder said.

Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.