ATLANTA -- Buford gas customers could soon get a break from a high deposit policy after a group of residents took complaints to the Public Service Commission.
"We are amazed at how much money Buford is making," said Hall County resident Lynn Everitt, a gas customer forced to pay a $300 deposit to the utility. The deposit is not returned unless the customer moves from the city.
She said the city's new community building is beautiful but shows a disparity with other governments struggling in the economy.
But even as public service commissioners encouraged a change to the four-year-old policy, Buford City Attorney Gregory Jay said city officials are already working on revisions.
Jay explained that the policy was implemented during the economic downturn, when the city faced a rise in uncollectable bills. While previous customers were grandfathered in and did not have to pay the sum, Jay said $300 covers two months of an average gas bill and helps keep other customers from paying more when laws say gas cannot be turned off during the winter, even for nonpayment.
Still, the city has been working with the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, along with 30 other municipalities, to create a uniform policy by the end of the year.
The municipal governments range from no deposit to $800, and some return the money after 12 to 24 months, if ratepayers have a good credit check or history of making payments, a staffer explained, adding that the recommendation is for a $150 deposit returned within 48 months.
At Thursday's committee hearing, commissioners praised Buford for its low gas rates but said the deposit policy is considerably more than other marketers.
"What we are doing is encouraging them to do the right thing, and if not we are going to encourage the Legislature (to change the law)," Commissioner Stan Wise said, who added that the commission has limited jurisdiction.
The city's gas utility serves areas of Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson and Barrow counties.