• 72°

County lodging tax passed

As their first order of business, the newly sworn in Pike County Commission did their part to pass a lodging tax on local hotels, but it wasn’t without opposition.

With a 3-2 majority, and one vote abstained, the commissioners passed a draft resolution to present to the local legislators for their next session.

Commissioners approved a 2 percent tax on all hotels and motels in the county, which will be added to the existing state and city lodging taxes.

District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright, who originally proposed the lodging tax, said this is a way to generate revenues without taxing resident.

“We are not coming up with any other solution of getting revenue right now,” Wright said. “If we apply for a grant, we have no money to match it.”

But, Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Barron voted against the tax, saying they want to protect local business owners who bring in people from out of town, as well as hotel owners who could lose business to other counties.

“I don’t want to see local businesses hurt,” Barron said. “They bring people in and provide room and board for people for sometimes three or four days.”

Wright, however, said local businesses would be impacted no matter how the commission voted, since the county will have to find some way to generate funds, like passing a tax directly on county residents.

“It’s going to hurt them either way,” Wright said.

Commissioners Ray Goodson and Charlie Harris also voted with Wright to pass the tax, while the new District 6 Commissioner Karen Berry abstained, saying she hadn’t studied the proposal enough.

County Attorney Allen Jones said the resolution will now be presented to Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Wendall Mitchell for the next state legislative session in February, and it will be up to them to decide whether it will be a tax voted on by county residents.

Barron said the cost of a special election, should the legislators decide to leave it up to a referendum, was another concern he had about the lodging tax.

“The money we would spend on a special election would cost probably $30,000, and are we going to get that in return?” Barron said. “If it doesn’t pass, then we’ll lose $30,000 that we don’t have now.”

Commissioners also were split in electing a new commission chairman.

Barron, Sullivan and Berry voted for Sullivan to be reelected as chairman, while Harris, Wright and Goodson voted against him.

As it stands now, Sullivan will reside as chair for now, since he was the past chair, a precendent based on a prior court ruling, Jones said.

However, Harris disagreed with this law, saying an open meetings act stated there is no chair at the first meeting of the year.

“We do not have a chair at the first meeting, nor do we have a vice chair,” Harris said. “Let’s not start off on the wrong foot.”

But, in 2005, Harris returned as the residing chair at the first commission meeting of the year. When the vote was split between he and Sullivan, he remained the chairman throughout the year.

Jones said they would study the laws more prior to the next meeting to determine what to do next.

The commission also approved a employment contract for County Administrator Harry Sanders that would protect him from termination without cause. He is the first county administrator to have a contract.

County Engineer Russell Oliver is the only other county employee to have this type of contract.

Under the contract, Sanders will have 60 days of written notice prior to termination, and with county approval, could continue employment until the time expired. Then, he will receive existing compensation for 90 days.

Goodson was the commissioner to propose the contract, which was approved across the board.

“I feel this would be beneficial to the county and Harry, too,” Goodson said.

Jones said county administrators in most counties have similar contracts.

“It just gives me something I wouldn’t have before,” Sanders said.

Also in the meeting, the county commission:

-elected Goodson as the vice chair.

-granted county employees the same holidays they requested off as last year.

-denied a request from the Salvation Army to put a donation kettle in the courthouse.

With a 3-2 majority, and one vote abstained, the commissioners passed a draft resolution to present to the local legislators for their next session.

Commissioners approved a 2 percent tax on all hotels and motels in the county, which will be added to the existing state and city lodging taxes.

District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright, who originally proposed the lodging tax, said this is a way to generate revenues without taxing resident.

“We are not coming up with any other solution of getting revenue right now,” Wright said. “If we apply for a grant, we have no money to match it.”

But, Commission Chairman Robin Sullivan and District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Barron voted against the tax, saying they want to protect local business owners who bring in people from out of town, as well as hotel owners who could lose business to other counties.

“I don’t want to see local businesses hurt,” Barron said. “They bring people in and provide room and board for people for sometimes three or four days.”

Wright, however, said local businesses would be impacted no matter how the commission voted, since the county will have to find some way to generate funds, like passing a tax directly on county residents.

“It’s going to hurt them either way,” Wright said.

Commissioners Ray Goodson and Charlie Harris also voted with Wright to pass the tax, while the new District 6 Commissioner Karen Berry abstained, saying she hadn’t studied the proposal enough.

County Attorney Allen Jones said the resolution will now be presented to Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Wendall Mitchell for the next state legislative session in February, and it will be up to them to decide whether it will be a tax voted on by county residents.

Barron said the cost of a special election, should the legislators decide to leave it up to a referendum, was another concern he had about the lodging tax.

“The money we would spend on a special election would cost probably $30,000, and are we going to get that in return?” Barron said. “If it doesn’t pass, then we’ll lose $30,000 that we don’t have now.”

Commissioners also were split in electing a new commission chairman.

Barron, Sullivan and Berry voted for Sullivan to be reelected as chairman, while Harris, Wright and Goodson voted against him.

As it stands now, Sullivan will reside as chair for now, since he was the past chair, a precendent based on a prior court ruling, Jones said.

However, Harris disagreed with this law, saying an open meetings act stated there is no chair at the first meeting of the year.

“We do not have a chair at the first meeting, nor do we have a vice chair,” Harris said. “Let’s not start off on the wrong foot.”

But, in 2005, Harris returned as the residing chair at the first commission meeting of the year. When the vote was split between he and Sullivan, he remained the chairman throughout the year.

Jones said they would study the laws more prior to the next meeting to determine what to do next.

The commission also approved a employment contract for County Administrator Harry Sanders that would protect him from termination without cause. He is the first county administrator to have a contract.

County Engineer Russell Oliver is the only other county employee to have this type of contract.

Under the contract, Sanders will have 60 days of written notice prior to termination, and with county approval, could continue employment until the time expired. Then, he will receive existing compensation for 90 days.

Goodson was the commissioner to propose the contract, which was approved across the board.

“I feel this would be beneficial to the county and Harry, too,” Goodson said.

Jones said county administrators in most counties have similar contracts.

“It just gives me something I wouldn’t have before,” Sanders said.

Also in the meeting, the county commission:

-elected Goodson as the vice chair.

-granted county employees the same holidays they requested off as last year.

-denied a request from the Salvation Army to put a donation kettle in the courthouse.