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MEAG credit will help pay
debt service

COVINGTON - A nearly $2 million credit that will be distributed to the city of Covington by the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia will be used to pay debt service on existing and future power plants.

MEAG would allow the city to apply the credit on power bills, but the council agreed that it would be better used to pay off debt.

The credit will be distributed on a monthly basis at $166,504.

If applied to individual power bills, customers would save between 2.7 percent and 4 percent each month, said City Manager Steve Horton. That would amount to a savings of between $2.70 and $4 on a $100 power bill.

"It appears that it would be better to instruct MEAG to redirect the reimbursed funds into the Flexible Trust so that they can be used at some point in the future to either pay down existing Project 1 debt service or be paid on the new Vogtle expansion in order to reduce future debt service," Horton said in a memo to the mayor and City Council.

The Flexible Trust is a MEAG account to which the city contributes for the purpose of setting aside funds to be used for annual capital projects or other purposes such as extra payments to debt service, Horton said. Money in the Flexible Trust earns interest until it is used.

"Debt service does exist on old generation facilities known as Project 1 facilities which does include previous Vogtle plants, and there will be debt service on the new plants that are planned. Currently, we pay debt service as a part of our monthly payment to MEAG," Horton said.

City officials and MEAG representatives were in meetings Wednesday and could not be reached to provide the amount of debt owed.

In other news, city customers will soon be able to pay utility bills online.

The council approved a contract with Advanced Utility Systems for the service at a cost of $32,500 plus an annual maintenance cost of $10,000.

Bobby Johnson, the city's information system manager, was able to negotiate the initial fee down from $55,000.

Customers will be able to review bills and pay online using credit and debit cards. They can also place requests for work orders that will be reviewed by customer service staff and passed on to the utilities department, Johnson said.

Customers can access the new site via a link on the city's Web page at www.cityofcovington.org.

The service should be available by the end of February, Johnson said.

The council also agreed to seek Requests for Proposals for an upgrade to the city's Web site using Microsoft's SharePoint technology.

The intent is to make the site more interactive for residents and customers, according to Horton.

Also, the city can update the site in-house, eliminating the cost of hiring a third party, he said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.