Public speaks, quietly, to commission

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The public finally had a chance to voice its opinion on Tuesday to the Marengo County Commission on the new one-cent sales tax. The rain played a major role in keeping the public from attending this meeting.

Scott Jones of Gallion was there asking questions for the citizens and Patrick Baugh of Baugh Ford was there asking about the impacts of the new tax on his business. Allen Bishop of Robertson Banking Company and Jim Parr of Parr’s Chevron also attended the meeting. Jones and Baugh were the more vocal of the 14 citizens that attended the meeting.

Bishop and Parr presented the commission with a poll that the Chamber did on the feelings of the local businesses. Bishop said that many of the local businesses were not against the tax; they just wish they could have voted on the matter.

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“73 percent of the businesses that had taken the poll voted that they were for the tax, but just wanted to be able to vote for it,” Bishop said.

Scott Jones didn’t pull any punches with his comments toward the sales tax. He first asked how the commission could just sit there and look the people in the face especially after the remarks made by Commissioner Freddie Armstead.

“How can you fellows sit here today and look the people of Marengo County in the face after the arrogant statements made by Freddie Armstead that ya’ll would pass the tax because ya’ll knew that the citizens wouldn’t pass it?” Jones said.

Commissioner Armstead answered Jones’ question by saying that he felt and still feels like the needs of the county will be justified with this tax.

“It is most important for us that sit on this board and know the needs of the county will be addressed by this sales tax. I just feel and still feel that if this tax come up for a vote, it would fail,” Commissioner Armstead said.

Jones also asked about the ‘cloak and dagger’ agreement between the commission and the Brian Whitfield Memorial Hospital on the issue of indignant care. Armstead said that now wasn’t the appropriate time to discuss the agreement, but soon it will be and the public will now the situation.

Woody Dinning Jr. told Jones that the commission didn’t have to have the public vote in order to pass the sales tax. He also said that the county itself will only 48 percent of the money and the school systems will get 17 percent and the hospital will also get a share of the money.

“The hospital isn’t the culprit, they are in need like everyone else in the county,” Dinning Jr. said.

Jones closed by saying that if the tax was lined out and taken to the people, he thinks it would have passed instead of having it throw upon us.

Baugh was the last person to stand and address the commission. Baugh owns businesses in Marengo County and he feels that when the ‘jail tax’ was passed it really hurt his businesses and now with this new sales tax, he wants to know what this will do to his current businesses.

“When the jail tax was passed it had people going to other counties to buy cars because they didn’t want to pay the tax. I just want to let the commission know that if you raise the tax on cars and trucks then you will be hurting yourselves in the long run because people will go out of the county to buy cars,” Baugh said.

Commissioner Max Joiner told Baugh that the county doesn’t receive any of the money from the sales of automobiles; the money goes to all three-school systems and the state.

“Well if you raise the tax, then ya’ll are taking money from the school systems,” Baugh said.

Commissioner Joiner promised Baugh that they would sit down with him and ask for his input into the ordinance on the sales tax.

Commissioner Ken Tucker, the lone commissioner who voted against the tax was asked by Jones to tell the people what he thought about the tax.

Tucker said his position has been documented and he isn’t against the tax, but he was against the process.

“I have never been against this tax, but I had three steps that I wanted to be taken before it had my support and those steps weren’t taken,” Commissioner Tucker said.