Citizens Show Opposition of 1% City Tax; Council Denies Consideration

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Councilwomen Melissa Jones and Amy Wagner, Assistant Administrator and Finance Director Danielle Sponaugle, City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers, and Mayor Dorothy Judy all listen as the council and concerned citizens discuss the consideration of implementing a 1% city tax

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

            The City Council meeting room was fuller than usual with citizens to provide their concern over the consideration of implementing a 1% city tax.  Over a dozen individuals, representing themselves or and/or their businesses, all spoke to the council regarding this consideration with the unanimous consensus being in opposition of the possibility.  The first individual spoke on behalf of six entities on how this additional tax would burden all those represented, all their multitude of business would be taken elsewhere if passed.  Jim Summerfield stated he was in agreement with the previous speaker, asking “What’s the council going to use that 1% for?”  Myers informed it would be allocated for street and sidewalk repair.  “Isn’t that what the Harman Fund is for?” asked Summerfield.  “The Harman Fund can be used for that,” informed Myers, “Well, why can’t we use that instead of putting the burden on the citizens of Parsons,” responded Summerfield.  “If we can’t run this town on that Harman Fund where these other cities around don’t have that, we’re in bad shape,” he said. Mayor Dorothy Judy confirmed nothing would be decided upon, the intention is to decide whether to move forward in the consideration.  Myers reported there are 16 class four towns around Parsons that implement this tax, including Thomas, Davis, and Elkins. “Davis, Thomas, and Elkins is a lot different than Parsons,” said Parsons City Councilwoman Amy Wagner, speaking as a business owner.  “We are struggling, look around, look to your left, look to your right, we’re all struggling here,” she said.  Wagner said she is constantly being asked to donate which she is happy to do, however local businesses can’t afford to do more than they already are to help sustain this town and those in it.

            Mike and Robin Hardy, owners of MR Pizza spoke next.  “So we just bought the pizza shop, so we’re new,” he began.  “Another 1%, that’s two months payment to the bank for me,” he added.  “That’s a lot of money to me.”  He commented he would like to see the sidewalks fixed because it’s a safety hazard, but at the same time said he can’t do another 1%.  Bob Gutshall was also present at the meeting, beginning with “I’m against the 1%, too.”  He asked again for the clarification on how this affects the quarterly taxes for business owners to which Myers explained.  “The business doesn’t pay it the customers do,” he said.  “That’s the problem, we are the customers,” spoke up Courtney Barb, owner of Elsewhere Salon.  “It’s just taking away from medicine and food for people and so forth, I just don’t think they can afford it,” Gutshall also noted.  He added he’s definitely against the 1% because most people in the community couldn’t afford it especially those new businesses and those trying to get started.  He used Elkins as an example of how businesses are moving out due to their excessive taxing, “There has to be other ways,” he concluded.

            Ken Smith spoke next to the council.  “I just want to give you something to think about,” he began.  “If you look at the negative impact that the $50 annual fee for the ambulance authority, look at the negativity that has created and I think this is going to do the same thing.”  “We should be promoting business like these people here (addressing the Hardys), just getting started.   We should do everything in our power, the city, to keep them on their feet and going, and promoting this,” added Summerfield.  Wagner added these businesses represented at the meeting and others are going to be the same people events coordinator Tammy Michael will be asking for sponsorships and donations for her events and they will have to stop donating if something like this takes effect.  “All of the businesses have always supported this town and I think all of you know that, we try to do what we can to do this, and that’s a good point Amy we will have to cut back somewhere,” added Gutshall.  Councilman Tim Auvil spoke up saying at this particular point he personally is against this tax but feels the funds gained from the Harman Fund were used responsibly and will continue to be.  He also added how the city has recently lost income due to properties being vacated yet their expenditures continue to rise, leading to issues with the recent audit.

            “I move to not consider this at this time,” motioned Recorder Bruce Kolsun with Councilwoman Missy Jones making a second and unanimous agreement. “I don’t hesitate to say that most of the time the people are right,” exclaimed Judy as she thanked everyone for their contribution to the discussion.  As the room began to empty, Summerfield stuck around to discuss another area of concern being the traffic on Quality Hill.  He acknowledged the law enforcement being on patrol more frequently; however it is still a major concern.  “Our kids are priceless and it’s our obligation and the city’s obligation to take care of them and to keep them safe,” Summerfield stated.  Discussion commenced regarding the former speed bump that used to be in place on that particular street.  Auvil said signage in general have been a discussion item and would be considered in that area as well, but the speed bump is looking to be reinstalled to keep the children safe for the citizens not obeying the law.

City events coordinator Tammy Michael pitching her fall event plans to the Parsons City Council for approval at Tuesday’s meeting.

 Tammy Michael, Events Coordinator for the City of Parsons, presented suggested events for the Fall and Winter seasons.  The first event was a Fall Festival in conjunction with the Parsons Volunteer Fire Departments Ladies Auxiliary to be held on Saturday, October 19 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.  to include games, face painting, hay rides, a cake walk, cartoon characters, and much more.  It will take place in the city parking lot across from City Hall.  Michael also proposed a scarecrow contest in hopes to become an annual event and to decorate the town with the entries.  Anyone interested in participating can contact Debbie White or the City of Parsons Business Office for guidelines to join in the fun.  The contest will begin October 5 and the winners will be announced at the Fall Festival on the 19. The Halloween Candy Walk will commence on October 26 from 4 until 6 p.m. at Mill Race Park.  In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Parsons Fire Hall.  Anyone interested in setting up and handing out candy can contact the Parsons Business Office to inquire about details.

            Michael also stated she received a phone call from an individual in Randolph County thanking the city for the splash park as they are frequent visitors of the amenity.  Jason Myers, City Administrator and Treasurer noted he also received a call from the town of Beverly interested in constructing one in their municipality and was seeking advice and suggestions.  Before concluding, Michael also presented her idea for the 2019 City of Parsons Christmas Parade.  Her suggested theme for the event is “A Magical Christmas” and will be held on Saturday, December 14.  The parade route will return to its traditional path, beginning around Shop N’ Save and potentially ending at the Annex building.  Councilman Tim Auvil made a motion to approve all events as presented with a second by Councilwoman Amy Wagner with all in agreement.

            The previous meeting minutes were then approved with one minor correction as well as motions made to pay invoice one for $11,105.61 and invoice two for $1,240.05  Myers presented monthly financial reports for March, April, and May along with a request for revisions of the budgets.  All were approved unanimously.

            Employee reports began with Parsons City Chief T.D. Roberts saying, “Nothing out of the ordinary for the last few weeks.”  They have been spending more time on Quality Hill which he explained unmarked cruisers would be beneficial in catching those breaking the law.  Traffic stops have been made for a few individuals going 30 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone.  “Citations have definitely increased since I took over this department,” he added especially within license, registration, and inspections.

            Myers stated two fire hydrants were recently replaced, one on Memorial Drive and one near Price and Billings.  He continued to comment on the old gas station being completely overhauled by Warren Judy and Brandon Wilfong of Shavers Fork Properties, LLC.  Building permits have been secured along with architectural involvements to turn the old station into four to five new apartments.  These individuals have also recently purchased property along the flood wall to construct five to six “cozy cabins”.  These structures will be elevated on pillars and rented on both short term and long term agreements.  Myers said these partners have went above requirements to ensure proper building requirements were not only met but exceeded including a hydrology study which was conducted. He also announced a free cakewalk on September 21 at 5 p.m. will be held to gain input from citizens on the further development of Parsons through the Blueprint Community Project.  He noted the input thus far has been downtown revitalization as number one concern and the other desire of the citizens was a community center.

            The City of Parsons co-hosted an insurance training seminar recently in Preston County that Myers gave updates from.  At this training, they learned about the benefits of the flood tool and how it works.  The new gates have been installed at Mill Race Park, though they are not closed.  Once the signage is installed at the new entrance, they will be shut.  The Splash Park is officially closed for the season and winterizing will soon begin.  Myers continued with information of an upcoming meeting with Thrasher Engineering regarding the Kingsford Sewer Extension Project.  “Congressman McKinley is coming to meet with city officials on Thursday, September 5 at 1:30,” he announced.  “The cemetery mapping project is progressing very well,” he continued with his updates.  With this amenity people can inquire where their loved ones are resting and they can direct them to their exact location.  It will also offer photos of the headstones to assist in locating.  The surveyor is also making progress on the industrial park property Myers stated as they also discussed minor city limit boundary adjustments.

            Continuing with updates, Myers said that the Tucker County Board of Education wants to “rid themselves of the building up there.”  Though they would like to stay there, he said they would like to give up ownership of the structure.  Kolsun, Judy, and Myers met with the board recently along with others who are housed in the building.  He said the Family Resource Network doesn’t want to leave their location along with the Tucker Community Foundation.  The board of education wishes to remain in this location as well, they just want to give up ownership of the building he further explained.  The Woodlands with the Development Authority expresses interest in taking control of the building and securing grants for needed upgrades and improvements.  Another meeting is being scheduled for October to discuss further findings and potentially move forward with a new owner of the annex.  Apartments and new businesses were also discussed to relocate into the annex building to pay rent to aid in the upkeep of the building.  Wagner inquired about continued use of the gym for the little league basketball teams, to which Myers responded the city would potentially step up to assist in maintenance to keep it open and accessible.  He has also been working with insurance agencies in attempts to lower the city’s liability insurance.

            Moving into unfinished business, the line item to discuss adopting the City of Fairmont’s Vacation Procedures Ordinance was referred to the ordinance committee.  This ordinance relates to vacating and abandoning properties, streets, and alleyways which Parsons has agreed it is in need of.  This ordinance will be altered to fit the needs of the town to aid in further decisions when these situations arise.

            New business included recommendations from the fleet management committee to list for sale the 1999 Dodge truck and the 2008 Chevrolet truck as well as relisting the Sterling.  These will be open for bids.  It was requested to approve attendance of staff to the Utility Office Works Seminar on October 17 in Sutton, all agreed.  The council then made a motion to enter executive session to discuss personnel.  Upon returning to regular session, Auvil said, “Until Nick Gidleys training is completed and he’s certified, his job title will be Code Enforcement Officer.”  Kolsun made a second with all in favor.

            The city received a letter which fell under correspondences.  Ken and Donell McCoy, residents of Spruce Street near the Second Street intersection, submitted a letter of concern regarding the traffic at that location not obeying the law which has recently resulted in an accident.  It was considered to implement a “no parking here to corner” sign; however, this would result in a parking issue for these residents. The McCoy’s requested a four way stop, however Wagner and Jones agreed moving the sign closer to the intersection on Second Street and adding a stop bar may help and if it doesn’t, a four way stop may be considered at a later date.  A stop sign was also discussed between the Senior Center and the VA Clinic which will be looked into by the sign committee.

            Under good of the order, it was asked if the upstairs of the city building had been moved into by the new tenants.  Myers said that St. George Medical Clinic has placed a Pregnancy Center in that location.  “So they did the renovations they promised?” asked Wagner.  “They did not do any renovations,” Myers replied.  “That was in their agreement,” stated Wagner, though Judy said it wasn’t in their contract.  “I thought it was part of the deal, that’s why we didn’t give it to the other ladies,” she said.  Myers said the city approved the contract and that wasn’t in the literature.  “OK well a lot of stuff must happen here I am very confused on because that is why we decided to go with St. George Clinic because they were going to do renovations, so you need to pull tapes from months ago and I want to see it,” she said.  “No we don’t have tapes,” replied Judy.  She asked about the former two meetings tapes as well since she was absent due to the deployment of her son, when she was informed they don’t record meetings.  “Well that’s convenient because that was part of the deal,” Wagner said.  “I was very misinformed on that because I really think that was part of the agreement,” she added, though Judy continued with the adjournment of the meeting.

            The next meeting of the Parsons City Council will commence on Tuesday, September 17 at 6 p.m.