By Jean Cole
Who says complaining gets you nowhere?
Athens Utilities customers unhappy about the city’s move to round utility bills to the nearest dollar to create a community grant fund, have managed to stop the initiative.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks issued an executive order Monday stopping further development of the Athens Utilities Round Up program.
The program would have allowed Athens Utilities to round customers' bills to the nearest dollar to create a fund for community grants. All bills would have been rounded unless customers called to notify the utility they did not wish to participate.
There was strong opposition to the program. Some customers objected to having to opt out of the program rather than to voluntarily opt in. Some objected to money being spent for uses they may not approve of.
The mayor notified members of the City Council and Utilities General Manager Gary Scroggins on Monday that the executive order stops further development of the program.
Money from those who did participate would have been placed in an account to fund grant proposals from 501(c) 3 nonprofit programs that benefit Limestone County.
Athens Utilities submitted the program proposal to the Athens City Council for approval because the council is the governing body for its utilities.
“Athens Utilities had good intentions with this program and saw it as a means to give back to the community,” Marks said. “Limestone County has always been a generous community, and many citizens wish to contribute to charities of their own choosing and do not want to be automatically enrolled in this program. We apologize for the confusion that resulted.”
Marks said if the city and utilities decide to pursue the program at a later date, he would request amendments, such as making participation voluntary.