In addition to that amount of money going into the city’s coffers, proponents of the sale say it will ensure a more reliable energy supply while removing a growing financial burden to the city.
New federal regulations taking effect next year make it likely the city will have to hire consultants to manage the system if it remains in city hands, proponents say.
As it is, the system has been losing money for several years in a row, they say.
Opponents of the sale say that by divesting itself of the gas utility, the city administration would forfeit a source of city jobs as well as the ability to deal leniently with customers on fixed incomes or otherwise in tight financial straits.
The opponents caution that rates are more likely to climb when it is strictly a business decision rather than a political one.
Atmos Energy already supplies a large portion of the city, from the old sugar mill north, and is said to have been a good partner.
Trey Hill, a representative from Atmos, told the City Council last month his company would make further improvements and enhancements which would increase the company’s investment to approximately $1 million.
He noted that selling the utility, which includes the service system, lines and other assets, would relieve the city of all responsibility and liability.
Since natural gas is Atmos Energy’s only business, the company will be able to do a better job of operating the system safely as well as meeting increasing regulatory requirements, proponents say.