During their first regular meeting of 2012, the Buchanan City Council swore in the returning mayor, Benjamin Biggers, and a new council member, Jarred Taylor. The council also voted to reduce the liquor pouring license fees for businesses.
During last month’s council meeting, Alex Melendez, owner of Los Cowboys Restaurant on the square, requested that the council make an adjustment in his $3,000 annual liquor pouring license fee, stating that “the fee was a little bit too much.” Melendez said that with his expenses and taxes, he was struggling to make a profit at his business, the only restaurant in Buchanan with a liquor license.
City Clerk Karen King presented the council with a list of license fees for towns of similar size. The results were varied, with some cities have higher and others lower fees.
“But we can’t compare ourselves to some of these cities,” said Council member Patty Hutcheson. “Some of these are tourist towns: Helen and Pine Mountain.”
Council member Kenny Hughes said the high price may be preventing other entrepreneurs from opening businesses inside the city limits.
When asked if a $500 reduction would help, Melendez said, “Anything would be good. We’re hoping to do better this year. I would be happy to be able to afford [the license] and not lose money on [selling alcohol].”
The council voted to reduce the pouring license fee from $3,000 to $2,500 and refund Melendez $500.
In other business, the council approved a motion to appoint Hughes as mayor pro-tem. Also, after hearing from City Inspector Terry Floyd, the city approved a motion to adopt a new system of organizing and maintaining building permits.
The council also heard from Haralson County Chamber of Commerce President Jennie English regarding the recently released Citizens County Survey compiled by the 2009 Leadership Haralson class. Each council member received a copy of the survey, and Biggers said it deserved “much study and examination” and that it contained helpful information.
Buchanan-Haralson Library Branch Manager Jana Gentry also updated the council on new programs at the library and notified them that the library will be upgrading their software. She also reminded everyone that the next Friends of the Library meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6.
Better Hometown Manager Janie Holder updated the council on the Better Hometown and Downtown Development Authority’s activities.
Holder reported that the committee will be doing several of the same activities as last year but that they also hope to introduce some new ones. She said they hoped to do more Christmas decorations this year and continue the Supper with Santa, as it was a huge success last year.
However, she said there are currently no plans to host the Bell Tower Bash this New Year’s Eve due to the popularity of the Possum Drop.
“The county simply isn’t big enough to host two big events like that on New Year’s,” she said.
Holder said that the city would be possibly looking to partner with the city of Tallapoosa for the Possum Drop, but that was still in negotiations.
As for new events to add to the city of Buchanan, Holder said the committee was discussing a Beach Bash for the summer, a permanent venue for the farmer’s market, and a summer concert series.
The council also heard from their department heads.
Public Works Director Dean Tanner reported that he had gathered a bid to replace the trees around the square the city cut down last year that were a part of the Streetscape Project. The company proposed replacing the trees with crepe myrtles with white blooms and replacing boxwoods and azaleas that died this year as well.
The council requested Tanner get at least one more bid from a local landscaping company.
Police Chief Tracy Lambert updated the council on new programs he wishes to implement this year. He said he hopes to implement SNAP (Special Neighbor Assistance Program), which would gather information on local residents who are elderly or have special medical needs. The information would be automatically pulled by a computer system when a 911 phone call is generated from the residence’s home phone. Lambert said the information would also be valuable in the event of evacuations or natural disasters.
“This way, we would be able to better help our citizens who have special needs in the event of an emergency,” Lambert said.
Lambert also proposed a VIP (Volunteers in Policing) program for retired elderly who wish to continue working and applying for a grant to insure every address in the city has a legible address marker.
City Clerk Karen King compiled a list of tax exempt properties in the city for the council’s perusal. The list showed more than $3 million in potential revenue that the city did not collect in taxes due to the tax exempt status of the properties.
“A lot of people wonder why Buchanan struggles financially,” Kings said, “this is why.”
The council asked King to clarify some of the parcels on the list so they can identify more of them and look into why so many are tax exempt.
The next City Council work session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31.