Council keeps city tax rates unchanged, announces Boo Fest location change; resident gives concerns over proposed nuisance ordinance

Posted October 13, 2021 at 9:01 am

Albany City Council had a heavier than usual agenda for its special called meeting held last Thursday, October 7, in the conference room at City Hall. A few residents were also on hand to speak to the group.

The regular meeting of the council had been slated for two days prior, Tuesday, October 5, at 5 p.m. However, that session had to be cancelled when only three members (one shy of a quorum) were able to attend, prompting the special meeting.

On Tuesday, with some visitors in attendance, a request that additional items be added to the Thursday night agenda, was agreed upon by those council members present.

The two items of business added to the call meeting agenda included a presentation from a local resident pertaining to a proposed revised city nuisance ordinance and the other a presentation from a new Hometown Makeover Committee recently formed, primarily to assist with the beautification of the city. (Separate articles on each of those issues can be found elsewhere this week.)

The council took other actions and heard brief statements pertaining to city issues during the approximately half-hour meeting, which had all council members and city legal advisor Norb Sohm on hand.

Following the pair of presentations, the council took up the issue of setting the 2021 property tax rates for city property owners.

Councilman Reed Sloan asked what the current rates were, with City Clerk/Treasurer Melissa Smith informing those present the current rates were 18 cents per $100 assessed value on real/personal property and 20 cents on tangible property.

Councilwoman Sarah Browning reminded the group that the tax issue had been discussed back in January, when a few members felt the rates needed to be adjusted to increase revenue for the city.

However, she said that was when the city had just imposed the rate increase on water bills and felt it would be too much on residents at one time.

With no further discussion on the issue, Sloan made a motion, seconded by Councilman Gene Ferrill, to keep the rates unchanged from last year (and several previous years) at 18 and 20 cents, respectively, for real and tangible property for the year. The motion passed by unanimous vote.

The council then voted unanimously, on a motion by Sloan, to amend the 2021-22 fiscal year budget to include the $259,217.96 American Rescue Plan Funds into the budget. Those funds have already been approved and received by the city.

The ARP funds can only be used for certain criteria, such as infrastructure, assistance with related bills such as water bills and so forth. It is believed the majority of the funds will help residents pay water bills who were unable to do so during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the meeting, Albany Mayor Lyle Pierce said the city planned on applying for another such federal grant in the future.

The council then voted 6-0 to close off the regular streets of Washington and Jefferson during this coming weekend’s 41st annual Foothills Festival.

Other comments with no action being taken at the special meeting included:

* Councilwoman Tonya Thrasher commended the Albany Police Department, noting its recently released police report, saying they were doing a very good job.

Over the past month, two new officers have been hired and one promoted in the ranks at APD, including the hiring of officers Jim Guffey and Rick Stearns and Officer Wayne Glover being named Assistant Police Chief.

Officer Guffey, former Clinton County Sheriff, who was present during part of the meeting, thanked the mayor and council for hiring him to the force.

Councilman Ferrill also asked about possible new equipment for the water department, with Councilman Sloan saying he would try and have someone at the next council meeting to address that issue.

With no further items on the called session agenda, the meeting was adjourned.

The next regular meeting of Albany City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2, in the conference room at City Hall and is open to the public.

Albany resident addresses council pertaining to city nuisance ordinance

An Albany resident, Rose Ann Martin, addressed the Albany City Council during its call meeting last Thursday, October 7. Martin talked politely–while expressing her opinions–to the council regarding a proposed nuisance ordinance the city is considering.

The ordinance was discussed at length at a special call meeting in late September to iron out some issues with the wording, but was not on the proposed regular meeting agenda last Tuesday or the special meeting held two days later.

The ordinance, however, is expected to be back on the agenda during the November regular meeting.

Martin said she decided to discuss the issue after reading the September 30 article published in the Clinton County News that covered the meeting discussing the ordinance.

The elderly local resident noted that she was not going to mention any specific names or council members names in her address to the body, which was written out and basically read as part of her statement and address to the mayor and council.

Martin addressed some issues that she had concern about and made her statements, which were typed out and read aloud, available to the NEWS.

The following are comments pertaining to the proposed nuisance ordinance made by Martin at last week’s special meeting:

“Comments from September 30 Clinton County News regarding City Council Meeting Ordinance.

Clinton County News: vehicles in inoperable condition increased from 10 days to 30 days.

“I have been in this City since 2014 and have seen, from day one, the same inoperative vehicles in the same place and lot for WAY over any 10 or 30 days.”

Clinton County News: Vehicle without a motor in driveway not seen as a nuisance.

“What is the role of members of the City Council? Is it to do whatever is good and for the betterment of the City of Albany and its residents, or is it to make sure that nothing happens that would either impact them, their relatives or friends or other influential people in the community in a negative way?”

Clinton County News: To quote a city council member: “If one resident or business is affected by the ordinance, everyone should be.”

“And that comment is what we would expect from a City Council member.”

Clinton County News: multiple vehicles in different conditions: answered: referring to vehicles not running.

Clinton County News: response from a person present, “that would be a decision for the Council to make.”

“I read this as “Let’s be very careful of who we are dealing with so as not to offend someone or step on their toes. Again I ask, what is the role of a City Council member?”

Clinton County News: Code Enforcement Officer would have to be tempered with good judgment on a case by case basis.

“Tempered with good judgment, yes, always. Case by case, I question. Again by this comment, I read that some offenders would be cited and some would not. Look for a loop hole, based on who in the City has influence or doesn’t.”

Clinton County News: Not a nuisance if in an enclosed space and not visible to the public.

“Absolutely, that is the whole point.

“Maintaining your property, mowed and so on, should be the responsibility of an owner. Lots may be vacant, but someone does own them.

“Why the picking up of trash would be a problem to a city resident is beyond me. I find this to be very convenient for us weekly and find the minimal cost is well worth it. In other places I have lived, the water and trash pickup cost were combined and it worked very well.

“As far as the removal of city buildings in poor condition and run down, again where is civic pride? ‘Where do we draw the line?’ is the question asked. By doing the job of maintaining your City in good condition and using some civic pride.

“The questions of writing to residents regarding those issues was not answered, and we can presume this had not been done. However, a warning letter about your property conditions and violations would be an excellent idea and possibly prevent assessing penalties.

“Yes, a penalty of $100 a day because of non-compliance is high, but the idea of the Mayor being able to send in city employees to help clean up is an excellent idea. But I would suggest, at the end, to work with the resident in question and adjust the cost in a way they would have to pay, but within the means with which they could do so. That I call compassion, but it does get the job done. A 60 day period is too long.

“Finally, you know it will be impossible to suit everyone, but the goal should be what is best for the majority of the City.

“A final note: the Boston Tea Party occurred in the 1700’s because the colonists were being taxed without representation. Unfortunately, we have this same situation today when over 7,000 plus voting residents are unable to choose the members of the City Council, but this choice is only in the hands of a few. Something needs to be done about this unfair situation.

“The council did not discuss nor take any action following the comments, but all thanked Martin for her comments and addressing the council about her concerns.

Trick-or-Treat day/hours set;

Boo Fest moved

Although Halloween Day is October 31 of each year, sometimes it is necessary for the date of actual “Trick-or-Treating” to be moved. Such is the case for the event in 2021.

Due to Halloween falling on a Sunday, which is known as church night in most areas, “Trick-or-Treating” in the City of Albany will be held a day early this year, on Saturday, October 30.

“Trick-or-Treat” times, however, will remain unchanged, and will run from 5-8 p.m., so mark your calendars for that date and time.

Also during the meeting, City Clerk/Treasurer Melissa Smith announced to the council and those present that the annual “Boo Fest” for children would be held this year at the Albany VFW location on Hopkins Street.

“Boo Fest” has become an annual event for trick-or-treating to take place in one central location on Halloween evening/night.

During the event, vendors set up locations and pass out treats to children who attend to provide them a safer environment in which to trick-or-treat.

The event started with family members of a young Albany girl, Aleigha Duvall, who was killed in a tragic accident while trick-or-treating in Albany several years ago. BooFest has become a huge success over the years.

The event had been held in downtown Albany, where streets were roped off in certain areas for vendors to set up to pass out candy and other treats to the hundreds of children who attended.

No specific reason was given for the change in location, however. Some feel the VFW site may be safer with less traffic and overall congestion as opposed to the downtown area.

(More details on Boo Fest will be published in a later issue.)