As some things change, others will stay the same.
Some who know this too well are leaders of the City of Edgewater as it continues to face heavy criticism from its residents. This time it comes in the form of a Public Petition for Audit of the city’s Public Works Department.
The petition for audit, prepared and presented by Libby Lavette, an Edgewater resident and member of the Edgewater Environmental Alliance, is in response to a supposed unusual spike in energy bills that have been noticed by city residents.
“We have had increasing bills,” said Ms. Lavette, who presented the petition to the city council Nov. 18. “Some residents are seeing increases from 50% to 100%, and nobody knows why they are occurring.”
In response to the petition, Jill Danigel, Edgewater’s Public Relations and Special Events Coordinator, tried to give some insight as to why some residents may be experiencing these bill spikes.
“Usage and leaks are the most common cause of higher than typical bills,” wrote Ms. Danigel in an email. “Another cause of higher bills is due to a resident who does not pay in a timely manner and accumulates late and reconnection charges each month. A resident sometimes only pays the minimum required to avoid shutoff thus allowing the late/reconnection charges to accumulate month after month.”
This isn’t the first time Ms. Lavette has locked horns with City Hall either. Just last month, she was involved with a movement for a recall vote of city council members. Causes for such a recall, according to Ms. Lavette, include malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, and other numerous offenses. Her intent is to have the vote ready by election time in 2020.
It’s no wonder why Mayor Mike Thomas may not enjoy her presence in the city council chamber very much.
“It’s no secret that the mayor doesn’t like me,” Ms. Lavette said. “They have turned a deaf ear to anything I suggest and threatened to eject me in the last meeting I attended.”
This time, she presented a petition for an all-inclusive audit to the council. A petition that, four days later, already has 50 signatures on it.
While 50 may seem like a large amount of people, the young environmentalist will need at least 20% of the amount of people who voted in the previous election to sign the petition before it can be considered for an official audit. That’s a number that she is still working to figure out, she commented.
“City continues to be available for any resident who contacts the Finance Department with concerns regarding their utility bill,” Ms. Danigel said. “There are several options offered to them including sending a technician to their home to assess for leaks on the City side of the line, providing the resident with colored tabs to assist in leak detection, as well as discussion with a billing technician regarding payment options.”
In regards to the necessity of the petition itself, the city remained neutral.
“In the event Ms. Lavette obtains the number and type of signatures required by Florida Statute,” Ms. Danigel wrote. “The decision regarding the necessity of an audit lies with the State of Florida.”
Ms. Lavette, however, is confident.
“I have no doubt that we will collect those signatures,” she said.