By DONNA RYDER
Union City Council members are not happy about the proposal by Obion County’s budget and finance committees to raise the county property tax rate on Union City residents only.
Union City Mayor Terry Hailey said the county seeks to increase the outside rate by 6 cents from $1.63 to $1.69. Hailey said he understands the increase is for county debt service and for restoring funds cut by the county for school purposes.
In a letter sent to Hailey and to city manager Kathy Dillon, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire stated all other cities in the county pay toward the debt obligations in the outside rate. Those obligations include $150,000 capital outlay note, $12,813 port authority note, $1,250 note interest and fees and $45,000 trustee commission. He also states 7 cents of the rate are for school purpose and Union City schools “will receive their ADA share of this increase.”
Hailey said he checked with the trustee and found that Union City residents paid more than $2.8 million in county taxes last fiscal year.
“I don’t understand where it all goes,” Hailey said, adding he is opposed to the county raising property taxes only on Union City residents.
Bill “Rat” Harrison said he thought the port authority note was paid off two years ago. He also stated that city residents pay a fee for every vehicle they own to the county to pay for upkeep of roads. “It’s not fair and it’s not right,” he said, adding it is the first time he has seen the county raise property taxes only on one city.
Harrison said it takes a lot of guts to raise taxes, but he doesn’t think the commissioners have the backbone to raise taxes across the entire county.
Hailey said the city’s representatives are looking out for Union City residents, but they are outnumbered.
“City residents should know we are opposed to it and we will try to keep them from it, but we can’t stop it,” the city mayor said.
The Obion County Commission is expected to take a final vote on the matter at its Aug. 20 meeting at 6 p.m.
Harrison encouraged city residents to call the county commissioners. “The citizens of Union City have paid their fair share,” he said.
Hailey added, “We pretty much provide services for city residents ourselves.”
After the meeting was opened in prayer by city attorney Jim Glasgow Jr., the council:
• Approved on second and final reading an ordinance to amend the city’s code pertaining to fire service outside the city limits. The only changes include increasing the service fee from $500 to $750 and placing funds generated from the service fee and the fire fee in the city’s General Fund.
The fire department will respond only to those locations for which the fire fee of $75 per year has been paid. The rate will not be prorated and will stay with the property for which it was paid.
Fire Chief Kelly Edmison said to date about 600 people have paid the fee. There were 1,600 signed up under Obion County’s rural fire service subscription program last fiscal year.
• Awarded Steel Con-struction a bid of $13,380.69 for building maintenance and improvements for Turf Management.
• Decided to wait on making a decision about placing a well at Reelfoot Pond on Reelfoot Avenue. The city received two estimates — one for $3,375 from Gus Well Drilling Service using plastic materials and one from Campbell Well Drilling for $6,500 for stainless steel. Both companies think they can find water near 100 feet, according to city employee Jason Moss. A further depth would cost more money.
Additional money will have to be spent to get electricity to the well.
City manager Kathy Dillon said estimates were received for the project instead of bids because these are the only two companies in this area that install the size well needed.
The well is required because the levy at the pond is leaking. The city recently repaired several leaks but more are probably there, according to Public Works director Steve Ladd.
Moss said the city has been pumping three million to five million gallons of water into the pond each month. He said this is treated city water and the well will allow for significant savings, adding it could pay for itself in a matter of months. Moss said he would prefer the city purchase the stainless steel because it will last longer.
But the question is just how long the city will have the pond and if the investment will be worth it. Ms. Dillon said it is the hope of the city to see something on the property where the former Reelfoot Packing Co. is located within the next five years. The city currently leases the pond, which is stocked with fish for the recreation of area residents.
The council asked for a test to be performed to find out at which depth water can be found before any decisions are made.
• Discussed the lack of attendance at Planning Commission meetings and suggested the city ask members if they wish to continue to serve. Ms. Dillon said the question has been posed and all say they wish to serve, yet the commission is still having problems meeting because of the lack of a quorum. Hailey suggested a new attendance policy. The current attendance policy states members should not miss more than three consecutive meetings within a 12-month period.
Ms. Dillon said it would be nice for members who cannot attend to give the city appropriate notice of their absence. She said members have sat and waited for others to arrive not knowing if they were going to attend.
• Agreed to close Hillcrest Street from Reelfoot Ave-nue to Bishop Street Friday from 2-9 p.m. so Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City may host a 100th anniversary event.
It also agreed to allow Sunswept Drive to be closed between the fairgrounds and East View Cemetery during heavy traffic at the fair, especially on Tuesday and Thursday. The fair runs Monday through Aug. 18.
The council voted to make Ury Street from Main to Exchange streets a no parking area.
Councilman B.J. Cran-ford suggested all of Ury Street be a one-way because it is so narrow. Interim Police Chief Perry Barfield said the department would have no problem with that. No action was taken.
• Heard Barfield explain, in reply to a question by Harrison, that there are two houses currently quarantined in the city because of meth activity. The houses must be cleaned up by a certified company approved by the state at the owners’ expense. The cost will depend on the extent of the damage of the property. The houses cannot be occupied until they have been cleaned.
When Harrison asked if the houses could be torn down, Barfield replied they could be, but they would have to be disposed of properly because they contain hazardous materials.
One of the homes is located on Church Street near two churches.
• Learned from Barfield, in reply to a question from councilman Dianne Eskew, that the department does not go out and “hunt down” juveniles who are breaking curfew. He said the department does try keep youth from congregating, but when they are approached by police they simply move to another location. He said it has always been a problem.
• Discussed a green buffer area near Veterans Park which was required through the grant program by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. People are running into it and causing damage. Ms. Dillon said she feels TDOT should cover any new expenses because the department is the one which required the buffer area.
• Was asked by Mrs. Eskew about an area on Palmer Street where a leak was fixed, but the street and yard were not properly repaired. Ladd told her the property is on the list, as are others in the city, and that the property owner is going to have to be patient. “That stuff does not happen overnight,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 8.8.12