Among the topics on tonight’s agenda, the Huntsville City Council will decide whether to approve an ordinance requiring a local natural gas provider to cease and desist from increasing rates to customers.

According to city attorney Thomas Leeper, CenterPoint Energy is seeking to raise the base rate for natural gas fees, and cities in South and East Texas have banded together to fight the action.

“On June 30, CenterPoint presented a statement of intent to raise rates in two or three of their divisions,” he said. “If they want to increase rates, they must first file with the City Council, as we are a regulatory agency for utility services.”

CenterPoint requested an increase of 38.18 percent, or approximately $4.85 per month per customer, and for service charges to increase by 467.38 percent.

Leeper said the city was entitled to a 90-day suspension on the proposed increase to allow time for public hearings and to gather more information.

“We went through that process and joined with many other cities in an area as far south as Seguin all the way to the Mt. Pleasant area in the north,” Leeper said. “The professionals in this coalition hired someone (to help), and that person said the data CenterPoint gave us to justify the increase was stale data by at least a year.”

Leeper said CenterPoint representatives argue the data is up to date. The city is also stating that the gas company did not give its customers enough advanced notice or were not notified in a way that would draw attention.

“The 90 days was up Nov. 3, but we actually held the public hearing before that in late October,” he said. “Now, we’re asking to suspend the (increase) until we get the information we’re asking for.”

However, CenterPoint claims it’s provided the city with all its current information. Customers will see an increase on their next energy bills because the company claims the city’s failure to make an official decision allows that.

“The remedy to all this will be that if CenterPoint is overcharging, they will have to pay that back to its customers,” Leeper said. “However, this issue could go all the way to the Railroad Commission if they ignore our ordinance.”

A judge in Crockett has ordered a mediation between the coalition of cities and CenterPoint to happen before Christmas, but if CenterPoint argues a trial judge does not have jurisdiction to so order, the next step could be to the Railroad Commission.

“We’re not beyond mediation,” Leeper said. “We understand they are protecting the rights of their shareholders, and the city is protecting the rights of its citizens.”

City Council will hold a work session to discuss Huntsville Police Department quality assessment at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1212 Avenue M. Council will adjourn from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to allow time for the Tree of Angels ceremony at the Walker County Courthouse at 5:30 p.m. Council will reconvene at 6 p.m. for a regularly scheduled session.

Other items up for Council approval:

• designating 19 1/2 Street as no parking on the south side and as one-way eastbound traffic between Avenues M and N

• purchase of six police vehicles and three pickups totaling $171,465

• purchase of 14 decorative lamps and posts for Spur 94 Project for $26,362, already budgeted.