The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 29, 2012

BREAKING: Mayor halts utility round up program

For The News Courier

ATHENS — Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks has issued an executive order 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 that they did not wish to participate.

There has been strong opposition to the program. Some objected to having to opt out of the program rather than to opt in. Some objected to money being spent for uses they may not approve of.

Marks issued the executive order today regarding the resolution approving the development of the Round Up program and charging the mayor with overseeing the program’s implementation.

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 non-profit 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.