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Businessman suggests changes to water, light minimums

January 9, 2013

Longtime West Point Businessman Mike Garnett, owner of Mike Garnett Enterprises, expressed his opposition Tuesday to the city of West Point charging the minimum set rates for electricity and water services for properties that only need services for a few days.
During Tuesday’s West Point Board of Mayor and Selectmen meeting, Garnett told the board that it’s unfair to be charged minimum commercial rates to a piece of property if the property only needs electricity, water and sewer services for several days or several weeks. In this case, he suggested that the Water and Light Department charge exactly what is used instead of charging the minimums.
The minimum commercial water rate in the city of West Point is $27 for 2,000 gallons and $3.40 for each additional 1,000 gallons. The minimum commercial sewer rate is $30 for the first 2,000 gallons and $3.10 for each additional 1,000 gallons. For utility service, the minimum commercial rate is $15 plus usage, said West Point Water and Light Superintendent Dwight Prisock.
Garnett said a couple of months ago when he was doing minimum repairs and clean up to a rental property, he got the electricity and water services hooked up and was charged a total of $80 but the services were turned on for only 13 days. He said he used less than 100 gallons of water and only about 57 kilowatts of electricity.
Garnett, who has been in business in West Point over 30 years, said his company works hard to fix up rental properties for people in the community, many of whom are in the low-income bracket and many who depend upon rental properties for housing. He said even with the absorption of tax increases, insurance hikes and what he calls unfair service rates, Garnett Enterprises has still tried to maintain their properties for people and has tried to contribute to the growth of the city’s economy.
“This is becoming an unaffordable community for my type business,” Garnett said. “We have good property, we try to take care of all our property – we try to follow all your rules, but this is outrageous just for 13 days...We need to try to come up with something that we can live with.”
He also expressed to the board that one shouldn’t have to pay for both electricity and water services if only one of the services, such as utility, is needed.
Prisock said the policy on the commercial minimums and the policy for getting both water and light services has been in place over 20 years, and he said the reason the city requires people to get both electricity and water services is “to keep things sanitary.” Prisock said if people are out working on a house for several days they’re more than likely going to need water as well as sewer services.
“We charge all (commercial) customers those minimums,” Prisock said. “It would be discriminatory not to do so.”
“You all have the highest minimums in north Mississippi; I done checked it out,” Garnett said. “I’ve been told about this bond and it’s got to be paid back, but this is ridiculous. Investments in this town is getting to where it’s not profitable and, I mean, I don’t have a cross over my head – I’m in business to make a little money. So we are moving our business out of town to towns that appreciate somebody coming in and trying to create a few jobs.”
Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman said with the policy being in place 20 years the city doesn’t have the minimum rate policy in place solely to pay off any bonds.
The board took no action on Garnett’s request, but Vice-Mayor Charles Collins suggested that members of the Utility Committee sit down with Garnett to work out the matter.

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