Oneonta council challenges state law and authority

At its most recent meeting, the Oneonta City Council passed two resolutions: one seeks changes in present state law, and the other appears to challenge that law’s legitimacy. The first asks local state lawmakers to have Blount removed as one of the three counties whose municipalities with populations of 1000 or more are excluded from holding their own alcohol legalization votes.

The second calls for a municipal option election on alcohol. That resolution notes that the city has received a petition signed by more than 30 percent of the number participating in the most recent general election calling for that option vote. The latter fails to set a specific date for the proposed election. Both resolutions passed by unanimous votes and with no discussion. Only councilman Tim McNair referred to the matter in councilor closing remarks.

McNair opined that Blount and the others (Clay and Randolph counties) should never have been exempted from the state law, lowering municipal alcohol referendum numbers to 1000 residents. “I think we should have the right, just like the other 64 counties have,” he noted.

In his remarks section, city administrator Ed Lowe explained the city has also prepared a letter to the state ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) Board, asking that any Oneonta action on alcohol not affect county receipt of funds for “dry” counties. The county receives almost $400,000 in funds from the state, commonly referred to as TVA monies.

TVA as a federal governmental agency cannot be taxed by the state or its subdivisions. TVA, normally, makes contributions in-lieu of property taxes lost to state entities for lands flooded by TVA dams and below TVA transmission lines.

In a potentially related matter, the council named the seven members of its alcohol license review commission. The council appointed Sherry Hicks, Lisa Wester, and A.J. Woods to join Norris, Lowe, police Chief James Chapman, and fire Chief David Osborne on that body.

The council accepted the resignation of firefighter Ken Ward, after more than 26-and-a-half years of service. Members also voted to advertise for a firefighter/paramedic replacement. Councilor Tonya Rogers, who is the council contact with the fire department, noted that with Ward’s departure, the department falls two below its budgeted staff.

The council hired Ricky Statham as a part-time librarian and added two new board members. Nathaniel Butler will serve on the Jefferson/Blount/St. Clair Mental Health Authority, and Amy Wilson joins the city planning commission.

With council consent, Norris proclaimed February “Black History Month” and set Feb. 14 as Arbor Day in the city. Members agreed to councilman Danny Robinson’s motion to spend $2,111.40 for new thermostats and councilman Mark Gargus’s for approximately $5000 for lights and crushed brick at the ballparks. Councilors also voted to continue the city’s contract with Revenue Discovery System for collection of taxes and license fees.

Hal Blackwood joined the other council members for the Feb. 12 meeting. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.