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Hartselle Enquirer

Revenue growth tops most agendas

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Revenue generation, economic growth and quality of life issues headlined Hartselle's municipal political forum.
Some 200 people were at Hartselle Civic Center Monday to hear the candidates for mayor and the five council posts address topics such as impact fees, funding for the fire department and property taxes. The forum was hosted by the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce. Candidates were each given two minutes to introduce themselves, followed by three questions and then a two-minute wrap-up.
Candidates were sequestered before the questions and did not know what they would be before they were asked.
Mayor
Incumbent Mayor Clif Knight said his experience enabled him to serve the city better.
"I know how city government works," Knight, who's seeking his second term, said. "I work well with city employees and department heads."
Knight cited the accomplishments of his term, including a $4 million general fund reserve and more than $2 million in grants the city has received.
Candidate Larry Smith said he thought the mayor must be one to "fix problems."
"In every way, the mayor's post is a full-time job."
Smith said the public drive to fund a third fire station should stop with the city providing immediate funding for the facility. He did not, however, support any tax increase.
"There are plenty of other ways we can bring things in here," he said, adding the city should work to become an entertainment destination.
Dwight Tankersley said he thought the city needed a third fire station and said he planned to vote for the tax increase.
"The citizens of Hartselle have a right to vote on the issue," he said. "I plan to vote for that increase because I think a property tax is better than a sales tax."
Council Place 1
Incumbent councilman Tom Chappell, also a member of the city's Planning Commission, said he opposed impact fees for residential property but thought such fees were OK in commercial developments.
"It's not a black and white issue," he said. "You have to look at it on a case-by-base basis."
Hartselle Utilities currently charges impact fees, but the city does not. Some cities in the state have begun charging developers for road work.
If elected to a second term, Chappell said he wanted to "improve communication at both a state and federal level."
Chappell's opponent, Kenny Thompson, served on the Hartselle City Council from 1980-92. One of his focuses, he said, would be to clean up the dilapidated areas of the city in an effort to attract new business. He cited the old Pine View Hospital site as an area that needed improvement.
"It's hard to sell Hartselle when you drive people into town and they see that," he said.
Council Place 2
Incumbent Councilman Alvin Abercrombie was unable to attend the forum due to surgery in Birmingham. Abercrombie was appointed last year to fill the term of Allen Stoner, who moved to Decatur. Abercrombie is owner of Abercrombie Chevrolet.
George Herring said he had thought the city should do all it can to promote and protect its children.
"I've been asked if I have special interests and I say I do. My special interests are the children of Hartselle," he said. Herring said he thought the city did need another fire station but did not support any additional property taxes.
Bill Smelser said he thought impact fees, if they were levied on a fair basis, could be beneficial. He did not support a tax increase, however.
"We have resources available through the I-65 corridor," he said.
Council Place 3
Incumbent Frank Jones is seeking his second term of office and told forum attendees he thought the council had been "extremely successful at managing what the city has."
While he said he was not in favor of increasing any tax, he thought a property tax was a better alternative to a sales tax.
"A property tax allows for steady revenue stream," he said. "It's a fair tax."
His opponents, Mark Mizell and Bill Partirdge said they would not support a tax increase.
"It saddens me to see the behavior that has taken place in this council," Mizell said. "I do not support a property tax increase. I would vote against an increase in a sales tax."
Partridge, said he doesn't think a property tax is fair, and, if the city is going to ask for an increase, the current plan isn't a good one.
"7.5 mills is not enough to be able to take care of what we need," he said.
Council Place 4
Incumbent Dick Carter, Bill Drake and Bruce Lackey were in agreement on one point: no new property tax.
Carter said he felt the tax wasn't necessary.
"If we watch spending and get more business here, the property tax won't be necessary," he said. Carter cited his work to recruit business to the area.
For Drake, the city just needed to be creative in finding ways to fund needed projects.
"There are so many other things that can be done," he said "We have resources that haven't been tapped."
Bruce Lackey agreed with Carter and Drake.
"I don't support any new taxes," he said.
Council Place 5
Incumbent Don Hall said he opposed impact fees for commercial development and said he didn't think a third fire station was needed at this time.
"As we get more development on Thompson Road, it's going to be desperately needed," he said. "But if you asked me if we needed it right now, I would say no."
What the city does need is the additional revenue from a property tax, he said, and the city's current plan is a good one.
"The money is earmarked for specific purposes," he said.
Hall's opponent, Samie Wiley, was out of town, attending his nephew's wedding.

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