Tallulah Mayor Charles Finlayson on Monday issued a statement concerning ongoing questions over the legality of the city council’s March decision to raise water rates citywide in an effort to secure funding for rehabilitation and construction work on the city’s water plant.
Following an announcement from prospective mayoral candidate Antonio Wilson last week that legal ground had been found on which to overturn the council’s vote to raise rates - a decision decided by a tie-breaking vote from Finlayson - the mayor said the city has looked into the matter and agrees with Wilson’s conclusion.
“As mayor, whenever an error is made, I will always take responsibility first and then work to correct the mistake,” Finlayoson said. “On March 11, 2021, the city council voted to increase the water rates for Tallulah Water Service customers. The water rate increase was put into place to cover the cost of the rehabilitation of the Tallulah Water Plant.”
During that vote, two city councilmembers voted yes, while two voted no and one member abstained.
“Since there appeared to be a tie vote, I consulted with the city attorney on what could be done. The city attorney advised that due to a ‘tie’ vote, I could cast the deciding vote. Acting on the advice of counsel, I voted yes and Ordinance 21-03-01 was adopted.”
After Wilson spoke with media members last week about legal evidence that seemed to support the notion the vote was not legal, Finlayson said the city’s attorney also investigated the matter.
“On Monday, November 15, 2021, it was brought to our attention that, according to the Lawrason Act, the procedure to adopt Ordinance 21-03-01 was not done properly,” Finlayson said. “After consulting with legal counsel, I am in agreement that the ordinance was voted on improperly and that it is in fact null and void. Due to that, the increase in water rate collections from our customers, which began in May 2021, must be refunded to Tallulah Water Customers. The refund time period is from May 1, 2021, to December 1, 2021.”
Moving forward, Finlayson said, rates will be lowered to the following: residential base rate of $30 for the first 1,000 gallons and $4.50 for each additional 1,000 gallons; commercial base rate of $50 for the first 1,000 gallons and $5.50 for each additional 1,000 gallons. Customer accounts will be credited to ensure proper refunds take place.
City of Tallulah officials said the ordinance will be reintroduced for a corrected vote at Monday’s regular 5:30 p.m. meeting of the Tallulah City Council at Tallulah City Hall. The public, as always they said, is encouraged to attend.