NAACP president met with city councilmen Monday

The president of the local branch of the NAACP appeared before the Cairo City Council Monday night seeking relief for residents who were assessed late fees and cutoff fees in contradiction with the city code of ordinances.
NAACP President Cindy Williams, a resident of south Grady County, addressed the council and said that she was responding to a complaint filed with the local branch of the NAACP.
Last September, the city council voted to revise the wording in the ordinance to match the billing practices in place since 1991. Mayor Booker Gainor had brought the matter to the attention of the council earlier in the year.
Prior to the revision, the ordinance stipulated that a late fee would be assessed 10 days after the due date and service would be cut off and fees incurred to restore service 20 days after the due date.
Since 1991, the city has been assessing a 10 percent late fee the following day after the due date and cutoff 10 days after the due date. However, the 1991 council action extended the time between the billing date and the due date by eight days to accommodate utility customers who receive monthly checks. This effectively meant the customer had 18 days from the bill date to pay without threat of penalty and 28 days before their service would be cut off.
According to city officials, those billing practices were never incorporated into the ordinance, but the change is referenced in the meeting minutes from 1991 and the monthly utility bill indicates those same terms.
Williams thanked City Manager Chris Addleton for meeting with her and NAACP First Vice President John Monds on Jan. 24 to discuss the matter.
However, on Monday night she said, “It is my hope that the council considers ways to address this issue in fairness. Whatever the intent, we must operate within the confines of the law. When we don’t, we must be willing to take responsibility and do what is right on behalf of those we serve. The NAACP would be more than happy to work with you to come up with ways to make amends in this situation.”
President Williams said once the council replies, the NAACP will determine what next steps would be appropriate.
Mayor Gainor thanked Williams for attending the meeting. Councilman Jerry Cox suggested the council should consider her remarks and City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman noted that the city would respond to the NAACP in writing.

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