Sumter IDB seals deal with Shippers and Sealers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Rick Couch / News Editor

As many as 45 new jobs could be coming to Sumter County and the timing couldn’t be any better.

This news was delivered following the Sumter County Industrial Boards Jan. 19 meeting where Shippers and Sellers signed a lease agreement.

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Board member Bobby Williams said the addition of new jobs would slowly bring needed revenue to the county with today’s closing of the local Wal-Mart store.

Lonnie Shepherd, a major shareholder with Shippers and Sellers said the agreement marked an enormous plus for the company and the county. He also assured the board he would seek employment between Sumter and Greene County.

The news is the first victory in the battle to replace jobs and tax revenue from the Wal-Mart closing.

In Livingston, the city council is looking at several other measures to help ease the pain and increase revenue. In their first meeting of the year, the council looked at resolutions to increase sanitation rates, lodging taxes and sales and use taxes.

Monday, Livingston Mayor Tom Tartt and council members took a closer look at these proposed changes.

“We looked at some seven or eight different revenue issues that we had,” Tartt said. “As we all knew, we were losing one of our largest, if not the largest tax contributor in Wal-Mart.”

Though losing Wal-Mart will be tough, Tartt said they planned to bounce back quickly. He said the store’s closing has no bearing on the proposed increases.

“That was not the true catalyst for this,” Tartt said. “We hope that by the end of this year and hopefully before the first half of this year is done we will have some type of business that will come into the Wal-Mart building to replace the share of the tax revenue we are losing.”

Tartt said the sanitation changes have come because they are paying more for gasoline than they have in the past. He said rates to have the garbage disposed of and increasing insurance rates made rate increases necessary. The need for a new truck, which would cost $117,000, was another factor.

If the increase is approved, residential rates will rise from $15 a month to $18 per month. Commercial rates will increase by 10 percent.

The city is one of few small towns that still handle their own garbage pickups, Tartt said, which made it easier for them to keep rates down in the past. But, he said increasing costs were forcing them to increase rates,

“We feel that the increase is justified by the increase in our cost over the past few years and we hope our constituents feel that way too,” Tartt said. “They are still getting awful lot of bang for their buck.”

The lodging tax increase, which was the second proposed change would bring the figure up to four percent. Tartt said this was still much lower than many cities around Livingston.

The hardest decision, Tartt said, was a one cent sales and use tax increase.

“This was probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in the 26 years I have been mayor,” Tartt said. “It is something that this council struggled mightily with. We have made several cuts and done other things to trim as much fat out of our budget as we could, but for the long term safety and the long term viability of our city we felt like this was necessary.”

The tax increase would be the first of its kind in Livingston in 30 years.

The three items will come to a vote in the council’s first February meeting.