Oneonta considers taxing issues

During its latest session, the Oneonta City Council reviewed possible tax measures with implications for the city. Addressing one specifically, councilors passed a resolution opposing legislation in the current Alabama legislative session.

The Alabama League of Municipalities had requested the city take a stand against a house bill (HB 58) and its companion senate version (SB 31). Those bills would exempt prescription drug revenues from gross receipts calculations in determining business license fees.

Oneonta shifted its licensing fee schedule several years ago to use gross receipts in determining the fees. The proposed bills would substantially reduce those license fees for city pharmacies.

In elaborating on the bills, city attorney Alex Smith explained that the proposed legislation would not provide any savings to individual customers. The Legislature has seen repeated attempts in recent years to enact such bills.

City manager-economic development officer Ed Lowe offered a possible tax incentive finance (TIF) district for future consideration. Lowe read a definition for such a district as partial explanation for the idea.

In its basic form, such an incentive would earmark any tax revenues resulting from appreciated value there for reinvestment into that defined district. The city would retain the original existing regular revenues.

Lowe referred, specifically, to a downtown redevelopment district, outlined as between A and Sixth streets and Adams and Second avenues. He noted the TIF proposal could include a sunset provision which would set an expiration date, unless otherwise extended.

Councilman Richard Phillips questioned whether or not Lowe envisioned the sunset provision. Lowe responded that he believed a first effort should provide such.

Mayor Ross Norris noted that while the present discussion relates to a downtown TIF, the city could designate a residential area for similar action. He advised the council that if members wish to pursue such, he will set a public meeting to gauge community sentiment.

Smith advised the council of negotiations toward rebidding the city’s solid waste contract. He noted that present contractor, Republic Services, has agreed to a six-month extension of the present contract to allow city officials more time to determine their wishes particularly for pickup in the downtown entertainment district. The council approved the Sept. 30 extension at current rates.

On Lowe’s recommendation, the council approved a memorandum of understanding with Alabama Power for the company’s use of the city’s CDL driving site. Alabama Power will use the graveled, fenced site as a parking and staging area in emergency situations. The understanding provides restoration of the facility to pre-use condition and payment of $500 a day when used.

Lowe offered information related to the city’s ACE (Alabama Community of Excellence) pursuit. He advised of the need to develop a downtown master plan. While noting that plans are extremely “preliminary” at the moment, some work is already underway.

He informed councilors of the proposed April 10 opening of Pounders, one of the new downtown restaurants. He announced the immediately upcoming closing of Ingram Ave. behind the old Fendley Furniture building to First Street for additional parking.

He also set a “charrette” (collaborative) meeting for May 9 related to the city’s entertainment district. He explained that meeting, scheduled immediately after the council’s regular session, will host stations for those who have some hesitancy at posing questions before a group to seek answers less formally.

Councilors approved a resolution honoring Wallace State in conjunction with National Community College Month. They voted to advertise positions for a temporary seasonal pool manager and lifeguards and to accept the resignation of police officer Brent Bender.

Norris advised the council of his appointment of Charles Clifton as the city’s new police chief. Clifton is to begin work April 10.

In her regular report to the council, Blount County-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce director Aimee Wilson updated councilors on projects underway. She also spoke of efforts to coordinate downtown landscaping among the beautification board, the Oneonta Business Association, and Blackwood Crossing greenhouses. When asked by Councilman Nathaniel Butler of possible use of Wallace State assistance, Wilson added the college to those previously listed.

Councilman Danny Robinson missed the March 28 session. Councilors Hal Blackwood and Tonya Rogers joined Norris, Phillips, and Butler for the nearly hour-long meeting. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.