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Local Forsyth Restaurant Receives Relief From Overdue Utility Bills

FORSYTH, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Sometimes, turning on the lights is complicated.

A Forsyth restaurant owner is facing trouble with his utility bills, and tonight, his situation forced him to ask the city council for help.

The Prime Palate is an award-winning restaurant, but if you don't have lights, it's tough to see the good food in front of you.

Tonight, the owner pleaded for a little help.

20,000 dollars isn't chump change.

And when you owe that much in utility bill late fees, you might have to ask for help.

"I think it took great courage for him to come up and talk to people in public in front of everybody," said Forsyth Mayor John Howard.

That's exactly what Freddy Butts, owner of The Prime Palate in downtown Forsyth, did at City Council's meeting Tuesday night.

"All I'm asking for is some time to pay the late charges and interest back," said Butts.

But here's what's worse: Butts should have never been in this position in the first place.

According to the Forsyth city ordinances, the power should have been turned off long before Butts came into all this debt, but somehow, no one noticed.

41NBC spoke with Butts briefly during the meeting, and while he declined to go on camera, he said because he had not received any notice of termination on his power, he kept trying to pay the debt--and it kept adding up.

Councilman Eric Wilson said the Monroe County Sheriff's office is looking into the matter.

"It's an ongoing investigation.," said Wilson. "We want to find out we want to do our due diligence and really find out internally how we didn't cut somebody off if they didn't pay for this many months."

Forsyth Mayor John Howard understands the sort of pressure Butts faces, and along with City Administrator Thomas White, decided to set up a payment plan for The Prime Palate.

"I know some will say that I didn't need to help him out--that I needed to go ahead and treat him like everybody else," said Howard. "But I believe I am treating him like everybody else. Everybody--a lot of people around here have payment arrangements. This is nothing new."

A payment plan that could keep local, award-winning food on the table.

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