Councilwoman asks Florala’s UB to pay city

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The newly-found working relationship between the Florala Utilities Board and city council could be on shaky footing, after city councilwoman Hazel Lee asked the board for an annual revenue sharing plan for the city.

Lee said last week she addressed utility board members at its Nov. 9 meeting because she felt “the city is entitled to cash revenue since the city is the sole shareholder in the utilities board ‘corporation.’”

“At the beginning, the city, for whatever reason, placed its revenue generating assets in a separate corporation called the water board, and later the Utilities Board,” Lee said. “This is similar to a parent corporation forming a subsidiary to produce one or more of its products. The subsidiary, like the utilities board, is a separate legal corporation and is not governed by the parent corporation (the city). However, the parent corporation controls the subsidiary by retaining the power to appoint its board of directors, just as the city appoints the board of directors for the utilities board.

“The parent corporation expects a return on its assets as a stockholder, just as the city of Florala should expect and get a return,” she said.

Her request — 3 percent of the board’s gross revenue.

“Both Andalusia and Opp have such an agreement,” she said.

Lee said her request was met with mixed results at the meeting as members took her request under advisement.

Almost a year ago, a more-than-two-year strife between the two entities — caused by a disagreement over the number of municipal officers allowed to sit on the board — came to an end with the installation of new board members.

Two council members currently serve as the city’s municipal representatives — Marvin Williford, who was elected the board’s chairman, and Mayor Robert Williamson.

Williamson said he agreed with the principle behind Lee’s request.

“I know that (Lee) talked with myself and (Williford) about her idea, but it has not been addressed by the council as a whole,” he said. “I am in favor of some kind of revenue-sharing plan. I agree with the concept that the water board was created to benefit the city; however, I don’t think the timing is right for the request.

“For the longest time it was a ‘we against them’ mentality, when really it’s ‘us,’ and considering our history, it is a touchy subject,” he said. “We need to continue to work together anyway we can.”

“In light of all that, I just don’t think the timing is right, and I’d hate to jeopardize that relationship,” he said.

Minutes of the Nov. 9 meeting stated the board showed excess revenue of $122 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, according to utility manager Lynn Hughes.

In a written statement presented at the Nov. 9 meeting, board member Marion Causey outlined recent contributions made to the city, which included obligating $24,000 for four years for new police cars, and giving $271,000 in “assets prior to the (old office building) and giving the city free water.”

“That with numerous other services, that totals $386,114,” the statement read. “We have in the past, and will still in the future, help the city, but this board is not the city’s bank to use in any way form or fashion.”

The board also recently committed to spending approximately $500,000 to move utility lines from the center of Fifth Avenue.

There was no discussion on the matter at Monday’s utility board meeting.

During Monday’s meeting, members agreed to contribute $3,400 to the city for half the total expense of providing city employees with holiday “one-time pay raises.”

That money, when matched by the city, will allow for each full-time employee to receive a one-time paycheck supplement of $200; each part-time employee, $200; and other employees, $50.

Utility board employees each will receive a $300 “one-time pay raise,” board members agreed.

The board also voted to contribute $3,000 to Florala’s Christmas Angel program.