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City comes closer to hotel agreement

By Bev Barr

The city council is getting closer to reaching an agreement with hotel developer Gene Ligouri and will move forward at the next regular city council meeting with possible action, depending upon some final number crunching based on a change to the total number of hotel rooms, which is now 46. The new proposed arrangement will have Liguori obtain a private mortgage and include a 3 percent fee on top of the 3 percent hotel occupancy tax for people staying in the hotel. The line item fee will not be a tax, but an added fee similar to the hotel occupancy tax. It was likened to resort fees, which are frequently included on bills at resort hotels. The EDC will make mortgage payments out of existing and future Hotel Occupancy Taxes. Liguori will be required to own the hotel for 10 years.
In other matters, the council agreed to post notice of the November election, which will include filling 3 city council seats. Members of the City Council are elected for 2-year terms of office.
The skate park will be skateboard worthy, possibly by Friday, Aug. 8. A festive ribbon-cutting-ground-breaking ceremony will be scheduled shortly after school begins, in order to communicate the news to as many young people as possible.
Recognizing that water is a valuable commodity (if not a precious resource), the council voted unanimously for a 5 percent increase in residential and commercial water and sewer rates. The rate increases will go into effect Oct. 1, 2017.
The council agreed to table until next time a decision and discussion about a similar proposed rate increase in commercial and residential utility and garbage rates.
The most controversial discussion of the evening was about employment requirements for the city. City administrator Linda Coones recommends hiring a professional engineer to fill the need for a Department of Public Works Director. Coones said that many small towns are moving in this direction as a way of mitigating the escalating cost of contracting with engineers for each and every situation that requires the professional expertise of an engineer and to help solve all TCQ violations. She recommends hiring a superintendent to manage street crews and run equipment, and such. The council agreed with the recommendation in principal, but said they didn’t have the detailed information necessary to move to a decision as swiftly as they would like.
The council agrees that they need to identify and articulate in greater detail job descriptions and duties for all employees, but especially the person who in the past has had the title, Department of Public Works Director. They agree to examine pay schedules for current employees in order to hire possibly 2 people to better meet the city’s needs.