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July 30, 2014

Piedmont spending curbs OK’d; one-cent sales tax hike dies

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Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: 5:21 pm, Thu Jul 17, 2014.

PIEDMONT — City Council members Tuesday agreed to several measures aimed at reducing city spending, but more such cuts may come as the city also agreed to ask experts for advice.

About 40 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, held in an upstairs meeting room at the city’s civic center. Many were city employees, eager to learn how the council’s decision might affect their pay.

In a work session Monday council members had discussed several ways the city could raise money and cut spending, including freezing employee pay raises and a one-cent sales tax increase. In all, the council considered 10 such proposals Tuesday.

Before bringing up some of those measures for consideration, Mayor Bill Baker told visitors at Tuesday’s meeting said that no one on the council wants to harm city employees.

“I’ll put you up against anybody, and I mean that,” Baker told the employees at the meeting, but he stressed that while the city’s bills are being paid, there is little left afterward.

Council members agreed Tuesday to hire Jacksonville State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research to analyze the city’s spending and recommend improvements. The analysis is estimated to cost around $14,000 to complete, Baker said.

Council members also approved a motion to charge the city’s school system for garbage collection, which Baker estimated would save the city about $1,500 monthly.

The council also agreed to discontinue city-owned credit cards used to pay for fuel for Piedmont city school vehicles. The city currently pays for less than $400 worth of fuel each month for the school’s maintenance vehicle and other school-owned transportation, Baker said.

In another measure,  council members also agreed to require city department heads to track their departments’ utility costs, and work to reduce that spending.

Councilman Ben Keller made a motion to increase the city’s sales tax by one cent, bringing it up to 10 cents for every dollar spent. No other council member seconded the motion, so it died before coming to a vote.

In a related matter, council members discussed the possibility of Piedmont paying for repairs to a city-owned building to allow for a new business to open there.

Ruby Stockdale has been planning for two years to open an adult daycare in the city’s former hospital, located above Veteran’s Memorial Park, but that building needs about $16,000 worth of repairs to its sprinkler system before her business can open, she said Tuesday.

“This is a safety issue that the state will not allow us to open unless this is handled,” Stockdale said.

Councilman Frank Cobb asked Stockdale if she can guarantee the city will be reimbursed for the $16,000 in repairs. Stockdale answered that she would be paying rent on the property and paying for utilities.

The building will also likely need plumbing repairs, Baker said, but the cost of those repairs is not yet known.

“I think we’re going to have to get a cost estimate for what it’s going to cost you to get water up there,” Baker said.

Baker asked whether Stockdale would be interested in buying the building and making the needed repairs herself. Stockdale said that she was willing to discuss that if the city offers a “fair market value.”

In other business, the council:

— Agreed to adopt into city ownership the roadways inside Highland Cemetery.  The action was needed, Baker said, to complete road work in the aging cemetery.

— Agreed to pay $125,570 from Ingram Equipment Company to lease/purchase a boom truck to pick up refuse and tree limbs.

— Agreed to move forward with abatement proceedings on two houses located at 116 Seaboard Avenue and 105 Eubanks Avenue.

— Agreed to withdraw a previous motion to allow CDG Engineering to apply for grants through the Tennessee Valley Authority to pay for work on the city’s drinking water systems.

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