After her initial meeting with representatives from Atmos Energy about plans to acquire the company’s operations in Morehouse Parish, Bastrop Mayor Betty Alford-Olive wrote a company official and said the city “can commence an expropriation suit” to take over the company’s operations.
The mayor’s statement was made in a letter dated Oct. 28, 2010, acquired through a Public Records Law request filed by the Bastrop Daily Enterprise.
Alford-Olive’s letter to Trey Hill, director of public affairs for Atmos brought to light the city’s ability to quick take the company’s operations through legislation approved last year.
Rep. Sam Little and Sen. Mike Walsworth said they were approached by Alford-Olive and her advisors about legislation that would give the city a strong position in its negotiations with International Paper. The company had announced its plans to close and scrap the Louisiana Mill, and the lawmakers said the mayor and staff said they wanted the quick take authority to force IP to leave the electric generating plant within the mill. Both legislators said they were repeatedly assured by Alford-Olive and her staff that the legislation was only intended to be used for the IP negotiations. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously and became effective June 25, 2010 - the day it was signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
On July 8, Atmos director of public affairs Trey Hill said the city wrote a letter, requesting a meeting with company officials. That letter was not included in the correspondence provided by Alford-Olive under the Public Records Law request.
At a public forum held earlier this month, Hill said Atmos assumed in dealt with the company’s franchise agreement with the city, which expires in April. When they were finally able to meet with the mayor in October, Hill said Alford-Olive and her staff “said they were interested in pursuing an option to buy our operations. I told them we weren’t interested in selling.”
In her correspondence to Hill following that meeting, Alford-Olive wrote that she was disappointed “that Atmos was not interested in selling its gas utility plant located in Bastrop to the [c]ity under any circumstance nor for any price.”
“That’s not what I told her,” Hill said Thursday. “I said I doubted the city could afford what it would take for us to cut (Bastrop) out of our system.”
In the October letter, Alford-Olive also states the city “is willing to work with Atmos to determine a mutually-agreeable price ...” further stating the city could “commence with an expropriation suit to achieve its goal of obtaining the utility operations as being a proper public service.”
Hill said Thursday after the public forum in early March - which was attended by no representatives from the city - that Atmos said it would be available to discuss the franchise agreement that expires next month.
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“We’ve heard nothing back,” Hill said. “We don’t have an ax to grind with the mayor and city and people of Bastrop, but I don’t think that continuing to push (the quick take legislation) is serving the best interest of the people.”