Oneonta announces qualifying and school tax holiday

The Oneonta City Council announced the beginning of qualifying for mayor, council, and school board elections. The mayor, all council seats, and school board places 1, 3, and 5 are to appear on the Aug. 23 election ballot. Qualifying began this week.

The council voted for the city to participate in the tax free school holiday set for Aug. 5-7. Oneonta will waive its city sales taxes in addition to those of the state for the applicable 2016 items. Wallace State buildings

City manager Ed Lowe won approval to advertise additional construction at the temporary Wallace State – Oneonta campus, related to state constitutional Amendment 772. The amendment title reads “Promotion of Economic and Industrial Development by County Commission” and permits counties and municipalities the use of public funds to assist other entities in economic development.

Asked of the resolution after the meeting, Lowe told The Blount Countian that Wallace State has outgrown the building housing its administrative offices and classrooms and needs additional space. He explained further that the city will also provide an area in the front campus building for a county economic development office as well.

Updating solicitations from the previous meeting, Lowe announced that several financial institutions had expressed interest in providing funds for future construction. The council anticipates needing some $6 million to build a permanent Wallace State location projected to house economic development offices and business incubators. Airport decertified

Lowe revealed Robbins Field, the city’s municipal airport, has lost its certification. He confirmed that encroachment issues led to the action. He contended the city remains in negotiation with property owners over resolving the tall-tree hazards and asserted that a land-title question of affected property should be settled soon.

As for long-term effects, Lowe noted that the city can no longer qualify for airport grants without the certification. He said the facility is still usable and planes continue to be housed in its hangars. In a prior council meeting, Lowe had noted that Gov. Robert Bentley’s pilot would not land at the airport over approach concerns. Other matters

Following questioning of its efficacy, councilors approved contracting with ALADTEC to provide electronic time keeping for city employees. Lowe presented the proposal as offering employees, especially police, the opportunity to clock-in using remote electronic devices. He said that officers are considered on-duty once they leave their houses for work.

Councilors Danny Robinson and Mark Gargus had queried could employees clock-in and actually not appear at work.

Lowe responded that the city would have the ability to limit who, how, and where clock-ins occur. He then added that keeping record of part-time employees related to the national Affordable Healthcare Act would prove another important benefit.

Before voting, Gargus asked of the city’s long-term commitment to the program, which Lowe had noted would run just over $1,900 for the remainder of the present fiscal year and would escalate to around $6,900 next year. Lowe said the city could cancel the service at any time with a 30-day notice.

Mayor Ross Norris invited businessman Matt Crow to address the council. Crow owns a historic downtown corner building under renovation as a possible restaurant. He asked the council of plans for downtown garbage and waste removal with several potential restaurants projected there.

Gargus volunteered that the city has already discussed possible approaches to that issue. He presented considered solutions, as Robinson asked what other non-downtown restaurants do.

Lowe suggested the city might schedule a public discussion after the council’s regularly scheduled meeting on July 26 to seek input on the matter. Robinson concluded that he desired information on how other cities address the matter.

Relating to downtown concerns, Lowe mentioned a problem with water management there and relayed information on a sidewalk dispute. He complimented the Ace Hardware building addition but noted that it had led to some issues with water run-off that need addressing. He also reported that property owners renovating a former downtown furniture business have found the city does not hold title to the sidewalk beside the building. He again expressed optimism over the ability to resolve the matter readily.

Continuing in his report, Lowe asked the council to agree to prepare a second copy of its agreement with developer Bill Towns over drainage work at Daniel Shopping Center. He explained that the city had agreed to provide $37,500 in assistance to Towns for correcting drainage problems related to Dry Creek.

Lowe elaborated that the city had set that precedent when it provided similar help to the property owner of a local grocery store building. He reported that Towns has misplaced the original letter and has requested a replacement. He emphasized that the city’s commitment requires completion of the project first.

Robinson received assurances to his question that the culvert construction had adequate engineering. Lowe said that the former county engineer had provided capacity studies and that the culvert should handle 130 percent of the engineer’s projected volume. When queried by Councilman Hal Blackwood, public works director Roland McCoy advised the council of nearly completed work on the CDL (commercial driver’s license) facility. City officials have anticipated Wallace State offering such training once the facilities are available. The council voted to schedule a work session with the city’s school board after its next meeting on July 12. The council holds its regular meetings the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall. Councilor Tonya Rogers missed the June 28 session attended by councilmen Tim McNair, Gargus, Robinson, and Blackwood and Mayor Norris.