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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Saturday, October 25, 2003

 

Georgia: Fort Valley candidate alleges municipal utility wasting money on fiber optics

"A candidate for Fort Valley City Council filed court papers Friday alleging millions of dollars have been lost or misspent by the city's utilities commission. Marvin Crafter, an at-large council candidate, is seeking a court injunction to stop the Fort Valley Utilities Commission from billing customers until an independent audit can determine if customers are having to pay twice for the same services."

"Crafter's petition, filed in Peach County Superior Court, seeks an inquiry to 'determine if the citizens are not being charged twice to make up for the loss and waste that has occurred over the past three years, or for additional cost involved in treating both fresh and wastewater for toxic contaminants found.' Crafter's petition says he has heard 'but not confirmed that more than $2.5 million had been lost, misused or wasted in the fiber optics project (that established high-speed computer connections in many parts of the city).'"


Whatever the merits of Crafter's allegations (and they sound dubious to me), his proposed remedy is dangerous. An audit would likely take several months. Any utility would be driven to near-bankruptcy if it were forbidden to collect its' bills for several months. Many ratepayers would then be shocked to finally receive water and power bills 3 or 4 times the average amount. (Experience elsewhere shows that when utility customers go unbilled for some reason for several months then get hit with a huge catch-up bill, many can't pay it all.)

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