It was an hour of grilling and questioning, but in the end the Lubbock city council gave Atmos the OK to raise your rates 8%. It all came after Atmos put a deal on the table that the city agreed to.
Before a deal was reached, Councilman Gary Boren brought up the topic of politics. He says it's close to impossible to get the Texas Railroad Commissions to side with cities when Atmos is hosting fundraising parties in Lubbock for these state elected officials.
After that was discussed, the negotiations fell into place.
"It concerns me that how our Railroad Commission may be for sale and all these cities out here are trying to hold costs down and work our citizens. It maybe a battle that can't be won," said Boren. Councilman Boren agrees that joining a coalition of at least 65 other Texas cities might be too risky for Lubbock rate payers. That's why the council decided not to join and struck up a deal instead that Boren calls an insurance policy for citizens.
The deal is that Lubbock agrees to let Atmos charge 1.21 cents more for customer rates. But if the other 65 cities win their fight with the Texas Railroad Commission and get favorable treatment or lower rates, Lubbock rate payers also get that same treatment. Atmos public affairs director Dan Alderson says it's a win-win situation. "If they receive more unfavorable treatment or have legal expenses occur in their efforts then the city of Lubbock would not have to pay any part of those," said Alderson.
Mayor Marc McDougal says the city incurred $3 million in legal expenses when they tried to fight Atmos in the past and he doesn't want to go there again. "You've got to weigh the options. The pros and cons. Is it worth the risk? In this case, it might be. But if we can get the clause in there we asked for we have the best of both worlds here," said McDougal.
Councilman Boren says if the other cities do not see progress in their legal fight by February, he says he will request that the city take legal action against Atmos. In the meantime, customer rates will be adjusted at the end of January.