Fillingame wants loan to cover Bay’s bills
By Cassandra Favre
Oct 12, 2013, 00:08
At Tuesday's Bay St. Louis City Council meeting, Mayor Les Fillingame asked council members to consider giving the administration authorization to seek out a short-term loan to settle three months' worth of the city's overdue utility bills.
"Our biggest payments that are overdue right now are Solid Waste and the Hancock County Utility Authority," Fillingame said. "With new rates, we will creep into the opportunity to get these caught up, but I will be honest with you I would very much like to consider looking for a line of credit to get these bills paid and then pay it back."
Ward Six Councilman Lonnie Falgout asked how much Fillingame wanted to borrow.
"No more than what we owe," city clerk David Kolf said. "We have a lot of money outstanding from MDOT that we haven't received yet."
"We are still waiting on the close-out of two large utility projects."
Kolf explained why the city is delinquent on its bills.
"A slow closing process, debt service payments and the fact that we haven't raised rates," Kolf said. "We weren't meeting our operating costs."
Fillingame suggested getting a line of credit and then "settling that when we get the payment from FEMA on the lift station projects."
"That would help Kolf clean the books up," Fillingame said. "I think everybody would rest easy and make the year end cleaner if we could go do what we need to do and pay those bills."
"I'm still not certain that we are okay on collecting people's waste water and garbage fees and using them for something else," Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said. "We go out and borrow money after we collect their money."
Kolf said the city has charged about $42,000 for wastewater usage, but owed about $66,000 to $70,000.
"We collected those people's garbage bills," Boudin said.
"We are a little bit behind on the garbage, yes," Fillingame said.
Councilmen authorized the mayor to explore a line of credit.
Falgout, Boudin and at-large Councilman Mike Favre voted against the measure. According to city officials, $103,000 is due to solid waste and about $258,000 is due to the Hancock County Utility Authority.
"The city does owe for three or four invoices," Hancock County's Utility Director David Pitalo said. "At the moment, this is affecting our cash, operations and maintenance account.
"We're able to function but things could get tighter."
"The city is behind, they owe for invoices from the months of June, July and August," Compton Engineering's Brenda Ford, secretary for solid waste said regarding the city's solid waste bills. "That total is $104,530.04 and there is another invoice that was sent out on Monday for September's bill.
"All we're doing is playing a game with money," Bay St. Louis resident Ron Thorp said. "Borrowing money to pay our bills, but still will have the same amount of debt."
"This is from the mayor who said we were good and is now looking for a loan to pay off debt," resident Libby Garcia said. "Throughout his campaign, he said we were solvent.
"We've been borrowing money from Peter to pay Paul for too long."
At the Aug. 6 council meeting, Kolf told councilmen and citizens that "we're gonna make our payroll and pay our bills."
In other action:
Central Avenue resident Barbara Hancock spoke at Tuesday's meeting and discussed problems with speeding, accidents and drag racing on Central Avenue.
Hancock told councilmen that "Central has become very popular with walkers and golf carts driven by children."
Hancock said she is afraid something tragic may happen.
Councilmen approved installing a speed bump on Central Ave. and lowering the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph from Washington Street to Ballard Court.
It will take 30 days to take effect and will have to be advertised in the newspaper.
Councilmen denied the Bay-Waveland school district's application for the placement of two off-premise advertising signs.
The signs were going to display the achievements of Bay High School.
Ward Two Councilwoman Wendy McDonald said she had received many calls from constituents voicing complaints that there are two other schools in Bay St. Louis and they also deserve to have their achievements recognized.
Fillingame said that he has been trying to find a place on the highway to do a "champion's court" and include all schools' championships and achievements.
Councilmen approved Marketown Investors, Inc's application to construct a 40 foot high digital LED billboard in the Marketown shopping center with the stipulation that builders use guidelines from the Gulfport ordinance, decoration at bottom of sign and the electronic part on the west side.
Residents from Ward One and Two voiced concerns about having a flashing light in that part of town.
McDonald was the only council member to vote against the sign.
Fillingame announced the upcoming retirement of city judge George Lipscomb, effective Feb. 1, 2014.
Councilmen scheduled a workshop on Tuesday Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. to compile a list of RESTORE Act projects.