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Flowery Branch moves toward street light charge
Council OKs ordinance that enables government to set up districts, levy for utility
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Flowery Branch is moving forward on a possible plan to charge residents for street lights, perhaps as a fee tacked onto property tax bills going out this fall.

The City Council voted Thursday night to approve an ordinance that sets up the framework for creating assessment districts in the city.

"This is just one of those infrastructure deals that government is involved in," City Councilman Joe Anglin said. "And I think every citizen, every business owner in the city has to take part in it.

"Everybody benefits from the lights: The police need it, businesses need it ... so it's good to look and see how we can all fairly pay (for them)."

The city is looking at several options for covering the city's nearly $36,000 in street light expenses, from all property owners paying a fee to assessing fees based on the type of street light in certain areas of town.

The city's 2011-2012 budget, which became effective July 1, covers street light costs through October, leaving open how to continue funding them the rest of the fiscal year.

Another option on the table: Return to the city's previous practice of covering the expense.

In an interview last week, Councilman Kris Yardley said, "We can obviously put it back in the budget if people don't want an assessment or (special) district."

Public hearings are set for Sept. 15 and Oct. 6, with the possible approval of street light charges on Oct. 20.

Property tax bills reflecting the charge then would be sent in late October or early November, officials have said.

The issue surfaced last year when residents of Madison Creek subdivision complained they had to pay nearly $35 per month per street light to Georgia Power while the city had absorbed street light costs in two other subdivisions — Portsmouth and Newberry Point.

They ended up agreeing in February to have the city serve as the go-between with Georgia Power and residents to pay a much lower governmental rate of $15 per month.

At the same time, city officials talked about crafting a street light ordinance aimed at equally distributing the cost of street lights.