City council tables rebate requests

Two requests by local business owners for a sales tax rebate were tabled by the Demopolis City Council Thursday, but only after debate and challenges by one of the owners, Ben Sherrod.

Sherrod and Andi Turberville, who is the owner of the newly-opened Canebakery, requested rebates to benefit their respective business ventures. Under current guidelines, neither would have been approved if a vote had been taken Thursday.

While Turberville owns her business, Sherrod has developed several and felt the tax rebates to two new businesses he has brought to the city should go to him instead of the business owners.

Instead, on two 4-1 votes, with Cleveland Cole dissenting and Mayor Mike Grayson abstaining, the Council put off a decision for two weeks so that the current policy can be reviewed.

Councilman Bill Meador explained the current policy offers rebates on a sliding scale depending on the number of employees, the amount of money invested and whether the business is new or expanding.

Jason Windham, representing the Demopolis Business Council, presented a proposed ordinance regulating “payday lending” businesses.

The ordinance he submitted to the council is based on one devised by Northport. Windham said it was being offered only as a guideline for the council to study.

The Business Council was making the request, he said, because payday lenders pay no sales tax while creating “a desperate situation among the most economic challenged demographic in our community.”

Barbara Blevins, director of the Horticulture Department, asked the council to come up with a plan for finding her new office space.

The trailer now being used has two gaping holes in the floor and last week had water damage from a pipe that burst.

The Building Committee will inspect the facilities and make a recommendation at the next meeting.

Installation of the internet bandwidth needed at the Demopolis Higher Education Center will not begin until June 2016, and then it will take 163 days to complete, Chuck Smith told the council.

Smith, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Community College System, said that because AT&T will not install the needed service until next year, classes beginning this fall will be split, half in the morning and half in the afternoon. The current T1 line cannot carry the load.

Smith said local and regional support from AT&T is there, but “corporate headquarters won’t return calls.”

The grand reopening of the center, a joint effort by Shelton State Community College and the University of West Alabama, will be held Aug. 18, Grayson said.

Several firms interested in the port property have asked the city to determine how much weight the floor of the building can hold. The estimate to test the floor is $7,600.

Councilman Charles Jones suggested finding the original specifications to see if the weight load is provided. Doing the test can be a point of negotiation, added Mayor Grayson.

The issue was tabled while the council gathers more information.

Two public assembly requests were approved, both for Oct. 17. The first, by Jeannette Johnson, is for the annual Community Breast Cancer Walk. It will begin at Christian Chapel and continue through the downtown area.

The second was a request from DTD for the use of the barbecue area at the river park for what is planned to be an annual Pumpkin Patch. Hannah Harmon and Alyssa Edwards, president and vice president respectively, said proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The council reappointed Woody Collins, Clarence Jackson and Lee Pritchett to the Industrial Development Board.

In his announcements, Mayor Grayson said the plans for the repairs on Herbert Street are being revised and are to be delivered by the end of this week. One of the issues to be resolved is who will be in charge of inspecting the work at the site.

He commended Police Chief Tommie Reese on his election as president of the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs at its recent meeting in Orange Beach.

Grayson said the Theo Ratfliff Center is hosting the Individual Readiness Training (IRT) Mission through Aug. 13. Military medical personnel are using this opportunity to provide health screenings and care as part of their training before deployment to third-world countries. When the IRT was in Demopolis in 2012, it treated some 4,000 people.

He said Ray Williams, former Demopolis High School athlete, set the world record for the raw squat of 938 pounds at the International Power Lifting Classic World Championships in Finland. Williams is the defensive line coach at Itawamba Junior College in Mississippi.

The council approved a resolution to sell surplus fire department equipment. It approved a similar resolution for police department surplus vehicle if Walker Reynolds, director of Parks and Recreation, does not want it.

The council approved a resolution declaring Aug. 6, 2015 as Emma Ruffin Pritchett Day in honor of the late Mrs. Pritchett “for her untiring dedication and relentless service to the community.”