Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

November 17, 2012

Countdown for LOST negotiations looms

City authorizes attorney to file suit if decision not made by Wednesday

AMERICUS — If an agreement cannot be reached between the City of Americus and the Sumter County governments on the LOST (local option sales tax) revenues, the City attorney has permission to file a lawsuit asking for baseball arbitration.

City Council voted unanimously for attorney Jimmy Skipper to file a lawsuit in the matter by Wednesday of next week, if no decision is reached before then. The Sumter County Board of Commissioners has a called meeting Monday afternoon to discuss LOST.

Skipper, in his briefing at Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the Mayor and Council, said the City and County have been already been through negotiations and arbitration to decide how to divide the revenues.

Skipper explained that a new law requires that the government renegotiate the agreement after a census. He said every county in the state is dealing with these issues.

The split had been 51 percent for Sumter County and 49 percent to the cities. Now the County wants 57 percent.

Since the deadline for filing a lawsuit is Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day as a legal holiday, the lawsuit, if filed, will have to be filed Wednesday at the latest.

“We are at a point now where we have to file with the Court if an agreement can’t be made,” Skipper said.

If there is no agreement reached by Dec. 31, the LOST goes away, and with it the revenue.

City Administrator Charlotte Cotton reminded Council that this is not a small matter being that the City received $1.9 million from this tax in 2012.

The vote by Council allows Skipper to file a petition to get the case before the Court, either jointly with the County or just the City of Americus alone.

“Discretion is the better part of valor,” Skipper said. “I would rather you decide now than to have a called meeting Thanksgiving week.”

The petition will ask the Court for “baseball arbitration” in which an administrative judge from outside this judicial circuit will rule for the City or the County. That decision will have to made by Dec. 31.

The Council approved the following consent agenda.

• Submitting application for a CHIP grant with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the proposed Project Area 3 (Parkview Apartments, Westside Drive, Davenport Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard area).

• Authorize Suzanne Freeman, financial director, to open a bank account for TSPLOST funds.

• Authorize the financial director to write down 2005 property taxes, in the amount of .09 percent of the total 2005 tax levy of $2,790.333.

• Acceptance of a $15,000 Hazmat Grant from Homeland Security.

A public hearing was held to seek citizen input regarding the re-establishment of the City Business Improvement District. No one offered citizen input.

The mayor recognized a group of Emerging Leaders with a proclamation. The group is mentored by Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

As separate items on the agenda, the Council approved the following.

• Resolution authorizing the development of an urban redevelopment plan and designating the areas of slum and blight.

• Resolution to establish an urban redevelopment agency to implement and administer the Urban Redevelopment Plan.

• Resolution to reestablish the City Business Improvement District.

• Acceptance of a bid for audit services from Mauldin and Jenkins for $32,000.

• Purchase 11 complete sets of turn out gear for the Americus Fire and Emergency Services from Municipal Equipment for $23.287.

• Purchase a thermal imaging camera for the Americus Fire and Emergency Services from Nafeco for $9,580.

Craig Walker addressed Mayor and Council. He asked for unity on the City Council and quoted scripture.


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