Chamber calls for sales tax collection on Covered Bridge Festival purchases

Speaking before the Oneonta City Council, Blount County – Oneonta Chamber of Commerce executive director Aimee Wilson requested council members take action to begin sales tax collection at the annual Covered Bridge Festival. She indicated uncertainty at how sales tax exemptions had begun or for what benefit. Wilson said she had spoken with Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman Chris Green, who agrees on ending the practice.

Wilson explained that when vendors call they ask the tax rate. She alleges they are prepared to charge the tax. She noted her belief that the time has come to eliminate the exemption, if there ever were a time to have had it.

Mayor Ross Norris and Councilman Danny Robinson posed questions of Wilson. Norris noted that the tax payments would still be tied to the truthfulness of the vendors. While generally agreeing, city manager/ economic development officer Ed Lowe and Councilman Richard Phillips noted that many vendors now use credit and debit machines, which will provide concrete evidence of sales figures. Lowe noted later in his commentary that it has become “very, very difficult to exempt taxes” on the state level and is really “not necessary anymore.”

At Norris’s request, Phillips spoke of efforts underway to establish a historic preservation commission. He indicated that relates to the city’s designation as an ACE (Alabama City of Excellence) community. He called for a tentative March 16 meeting (later moved to March 14) to examine that and other ACE matters.

Lowe, again in his later comments, noted the city may well reach its ACE graduation this spring. He reported one mayor who had seen the city’s ACE efforts had contacted his office for more details of the program and Oneonta’s success in winning the designation.

In personnel and board service matters, the council accepted the resignation of recently named park and recreation maintenance worker Colton Jones and hired Adam Mills as his replacement. Norris explained that Jones, hired at the immediately prior regular council session, had decided not to accept the position. Councilman Nathaniel Butler won approval to add Misty Campos to the list of part-time park and recreation summer employees.

The council named member Hal Blackwood to the city’s planning commission. Members also reappointed Carl Frey and Gary Reid to the library board.

Lowe reported the city has met all current requests of Zaxby’s and expects work will soon begin on its actual construction. He also advised of his preparation for the annual REcon ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers) meeting in May in Las Vegas. REcon labels itself “the world’s largest retail real estate convention with more than 37,000 attendees representing 58 countries who gather for power deal making, endless networking and innovative education.”

Lowe reported a recent request from a shopping center developer seeking information on the city. He contends that prior contacts through REcon are beginning to pay off. He elaborated that he has received several requests over the past 45 days on various parcels of land in the city.

During the regular comments portion of the meeting, Councilwoman Tanya Rogers asked Butler of the next scheduled park and recreation board meeting. Butler noted the last meeting had been a couple of months past and that no time had been set for the next. Norris asked that Butler return to regular monthly meetings of that group. Lowe noted that those interested in meeting dates and service on city boards could contact city hall about such.

Library director Ricky Statham advised of the board’s continued effort to obtain grants for the city’s summer reading program. He noted completion of a request for a $3,000 grant from a national retailer. He also reminded the council of the planned March 18 presentation by “Forgotten Alabama” photographer Glenn Wells.

City attorney Alex Smith had announced earlier the postponement of a public hearing to vacate officially a half alley on B Street between Adams and Jackson avenues. The rescheduled date will be Tuesday, March 14, at 5:15 p.m. prior to the next regular council meeting.

The council holds those regular meetings the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the city hall chambers. Councilman Hal Blackwood missed the Feb. 28 meeting; all other council members (Norris, Robinson, Phillips, Butler, and Rogers) attended.