Power bill assistance donations requested

Friday, February 19, 2010

Marshall County residents need help with their power bills as much this year as last year.

That's the message to be delivered to county commissioners at their monthly meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's Public Square.

Revised figures are to be reported Monday by County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, but this week he told budget committeemen that the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, had received $8,702 in donations.

Federal funds from LIHEAP in one of its offerings are matched two-for-one when local sources are provided. The county commission put in $5,000 from its Economic and Community Development Fund, the hotel and motel room tax. The balance of the $8,702 came from churches and individuals.

Liggett said $2,391 has been disbursed, which, with the government funds, means more than $7,000 has helped people in Marshall County who've struggled to pay their energy bills.

"The need is there again this time," said Liggett, noting that the South Central Human Resources Agency had told him they have "a ton" of applications that have not been processed, and applications are still being received.

Liggett said in a telephone interview that the county put $4,000 into LIHEAP last year, and then added another $4,000 to that, plus substantial contributions from the community, and "every penny" was used.

Liggett's report and subsequent explanations were a result of a Tuesday night meeting of the commission's budget committee.

The committee has forwarded the issue to the commission. It's included in an amendment to a resolution that appropriates nearly $200,000 to nonprofit charitable organizations including: $76,500 to Marshall County Senior Citizens; $40,000 to MC Child Development Center; $31,500 in one-to-one matching grants to rural fire departments; and $21,600 to Centerstone Mental Health Center.

In other business, budget director Freda Terry talked about bad debts with the county-owned ambulance service.

She warned that bad debts passed a statute of limitations aren't collectable according to a ruling by Chancellor J. B. Cox. Such a debt, however might prevent the individual from getting, for example, a car loan or mortgage.

"We're carrying lots of (debt) on the books," Terry said.

An hour of legal representation to collect a debt might cost more than the debt itself, but Terry said she would consult county attorney Ginger Shofner on the matter.

The budget committee voted to continue collection efforts on one man's ambulance bill. The man's substantial hospital bill had been written off by Maury Regional Hospital, and he thought the ambulance charges were included in that, Terry said. But the ambulance bills weren't included in the hospital bill and the man had been informed of that, she said. The debtor still hoped the county would write off his debt, but the committee did not.