Judgment sought on J2

The Anniston City Council passed a resolution Tuesday seeking a declaratory judgment against J2 Investments, a development firm seeking to put a Best Western Plus Hotel in downtown Anniston on the 12th and Noble site pictured above. City officials said in June that J2 might miss the groundbreaking deadline of January 2019.

The Anniston City Council on Tuesday approved a $317,000 budget amendment that would use slight increases to city fees to put $40,000 into reserve funds as well as pay for projects like road repaving and sidewalk installations.

Councilman Jay Jenkins introduced the amendment to the city’s $39.2 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The amendment, pending a second budget hearing, brings about the following changes:

— Garbage fees increase from $10 a month to $12 a month. Jenkins said the services cost the city about $875,000 each year,  but revenue from the fees only generates $680,000. He said the proposal would bring the city’s revenue stream up about $180,000.

— Changes golf fees at the city’s course from $29 to $32 a month and adding a second tier of golf memberships for weekend play that costs $30 more. Those changes would increase revenue by $45,000.

— Increases the administrative fee for business licenses from $10 to $12. That would add $10,000, according to Jenkins.

— Have Parks and Recreations staff teach classes when possible in exchange for an increase in pay. That would save $14,000.

— Charge a flat base fee of $200 for entities renting out the Anniston Meeting Center to recoup expenses like lights, air conditioning and cleanup. Also, Jenkins proposed a charge of between $100 and $50 for groups who have there events catered by an outside company. Both those proposals would generate $17,000.

— Increasing the prices of entrees at the Cane Creek Grille by 25 to 50 cents. That would generate $7,000 in revenue.

Jenkins proposed using the saved money to pay for the following projects:

— $40,000 for the YMCA after-school program

— $5,000 to pay for Anniston students to attend the Fire Science program

— $30,000 for two part-time employees to clean up downtown

— $15,000 for design work for a sidewalk project on West 14th Street proposed by Councilman David Reddick

— $15,000 toward a sidewalk project on Greenbrier-Dear Road

— $25,000 for land acquisition and an earthen building pad on south Leighton

— $10,000 for a sidewalk project on Tenth Street to extend an existing walkway from Lockwood to Tenth Street School.

— $140,000 for repaving projects

— $37,000 put into the city’s reserves

Jenkins said he spent a lot of time with city department heads going over the budget, and he tried to make changes that wouldn’t be a significant burden for residents.

Jenkins amendment passed with only Councilman Ben Little voting no.

The council also voted down a proposal by Reddick to use money saved from the absence of a public works director to give each council member a $5,000 discretionary fund. That measure failed by a 3-2 vote, with Reddick and Little being the two yes votes.

Jenkins said such funds could lead to corruption or political favoritism.

“Discretionary funds are a slippery slope,” he said.

Councilwoman Millie Harris agreed, saying, “It’s very uncomfortable to even say this money is going to that nonprofit and not going to the other.”

Harris also introduced an amendment proposing the city buy security cameras for high-crime areas. The measure failed after it didn’t receive a second.

Because an amendment was approved, the council will hold  another budget hearing during its meeting Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

In other business, the council passed a resolution seeking a declaratory judgment against J2 Investments, a development firm seeking to put a Best Western Plus Hotel in downtown Anniston.

The city initially sold the property that once held the Model City Center to J2 Investments, with the understanding that the firm would break ground on the hotel by January 2019.

City officials said in June that J2 might miss that deadline because one of the firm’s two partners was jailed in Mississippi earlier this year on attempted kidnapping and escape charges.

The measure approved Tuesday seeks to rescind the agreement with the firm and for the city to recover the property.


Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.

I'm the assistant metro editor for The Anniston Star. I edit, post online stories and write the occasional story.