In its first meeting of the new year, the Fortville Town Council made a big change to a policy that had been in place for seven years and dealt with the town’s utility department.
In a 3-2 vote, town officials approved first reading of an ordinance that no longer requires residents to have a photo ID when opening utilities, whether it be electric, water or sewer.
Alex Intermill, town attorney, told the council that with all the town wants to make sure they are sure customers requesting services are who they say they are and have the right to establish service where they want service.
Intermill said an individual recently wanted to sign up for utilities and was offered an opportunity to provide sufficient documentation, but refused. Intermill said the person also declined an opportunity to come before council, explain the situation and ask for an exception, but refused.
Council member Robert Holland agreed with the logic, stating if someone had an issue, they could approach the town council or town manager to work out any issue, and said he believed requiring a photo id was a “sound policy.”
Newly elected council member Becky Davis, however, disagreed, pushing a motion to the table that would remove the provision requiring a photo ID. That prompted several minutes of discussion among council members, and when the dust settled, the motion had passed 3-2. Davis, along with Tonya Davis and Fritz Fentz all voted in favor, while Holland and and Libby Wyatt voted against.
Davis told Giant FM that her desire for the motion was simple.
“I made the motion because not everyone has a photo ID. My mother never drove, so she didn’t have a photo id. If they want a photo, then they could take one, unless that person doesn’t allow their photo to be taken for religious or other reasons. The utility office requires a copy of the lease if that person is renting and a copy of something showing they bought or own the house, so no, I don’t think someone is opening utilities in someone else’s name,” Davis told Giant FM.
Ironically, Fentz was in favor of the photo ID until he uttered a yes vote.
The move was not lost on Holland, who immediately asked Fentz why he had a change of heart.
“You said you were okay with moving forward with the photo id, but you voted against it,” Holland said.
Fentz said that Becky Davis did a good enough job of convincing him that the photo id was not necessary, pointing to the fact that Fortville has been quick to shut off water service of residents in the past that people do not have time to run up an astronomical bill.
“Indianapolis, Greenfield, none of them have a photo ID. We are the only people to do that,” Fentz said.
Holland continued to press the issue, asking Fentz again why he changed his mind.
“You just said we needed a photo, and you voted no, so I just wanted clarification,” Holland said.
Fentz said as long as a resident has a social security number or birth certificate, officials will know who they are.
Wyatt voiced concern over the measure.
“I think it’s a mistake. We aren’t Greenfield or Indianapolis. We are a small town that knows its people. We are making sure we are doing the right thing by them,” Wyatt said.
Resident Sonja Meyer agreed, taking council to task for voting against a photo ID.
“I disagree with your last vote. I know people who have put utilities in their children’s name and children now have bad credit. I think it’s a bad idea. I just wanted you to know from a resident’s perspective,” Meyer said.
“I’d rather us make sure. It is short sided and only protects ourselves and the person getting the utilities. This individual had avenues to work with the town council and chose not to,” Holland said.