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Demopolis council opens discussion on lodging tax

The Demopolis City Council tabled a decision on a $2 lodging tax to be placed on each occupied hotel room per night within the city to raise funds for the upcoming Babe Ruth World Series in 2019 and Regional Tournament in 2020.

Demopolis Parks and Recreation Director and Board Chairman Walker Reynolds told the council that “most of the businesses and towns … have a tourism tax that’s a bed tax.” Reynolds said other cities had taxes of $5 to 7 but that he felt $2 would be adequate for Demopolis.

“We thought $2 would probably benefit us and help get the World Series and the Regional … off the ground instead of incurring all the debt ourselves,” he said.

Reynolds also said that the tax will be revisited after the two-year period for possible renewal.

Mayor John Laney also assured that the funds would only be used for expenses associated with the two events.

“It will all be used to promote business events, sporting events and tourism-type events,” he said.

He also said the tax had the support of the hotel industry in Demopolis.

Should the tax be approved, it will go into effect approximately a month after approval and the profits would be overseen by a committee of five people consisting of Reynolds, two other members of the Parks and Recreation Board, Demopolis Area of Commerce Director Sidney Freeman and a representative of the hotel industry. The committee will report to the Parks and Recreation Board.

“The primary goal is to be able to generate more events to bring people to the city of Demopolis that will use our hotels, our restaurants and other things,” Laney said.

Councilman Bill Meador made the motion to table the decision until the next meeting, citing concerns about having not read the most recent revision, though he did “agree with [the tax] in principle.” The council approved the motion and deferred the decision until the next city council meeting.

After the decision, rather than wait until the following meeting to make comments on the tax, Jay Shows, general manager of Best Western Two Rivers Hotel & Suites, told the council that the hotel industry is in favor of the tax, though it does put the hotels in Demopolis “a little on the high end on the taxes for our hotels in our surrounding market area.”

Councilman Charles Jones asked Shows if he could see someone choosing a different hotel based on the tax. Shows said the tax could be a disincentive for some consumers.

Girish Patel, owner of the Comfort Inn in Demopolis, also pointed out that there may be an initial negative impact, but the benefits of the tax would ultimately outweigh it.

Other items discussed by the council include the following:

• Laney announced the Utility Service Partners, which provide insurance for the city of Demopolis, will send flyers advertising insurance policies to residents on Dec. 26.

• Building Inspector Julius Rembert updated the council on three dilapidated properties, one at 703 E. Washington St. which is scheduled for demolition, one at 506 3rd Ave. which is scheduled for a burning with the Demopolis Fire Department and one at 405 Chestnut St. which may also be burned by the fire department. He also announced that the owner of 506 S. Commissioner Ave. is making plans for demolition with another contractor. Rembert is also working on a webpage to curb dilapidated properties through educating the community.

• appointing Jason Pendergrass to the Marengo County Economic Development Authority. The council also appointed Tammy Knox and re-appointed Catherine Meador to the Demopolis Public Library Board of Trustees.

• approving a one-time $100 pay adjustment for full-time municipal employees.

• approving three budget adjustment resolutions reflecting funds being put back into the respective budgets, including $1,479 for the Demopolis Police Department for providing security at the high school; $319 for Public Works for repairing a drop inlet; and a $10,701 adjustment for the police department from insurance proceeds on a wrecked vehicle.

The Demopolis City Council meets the first and third Thursday of each month, at 5:15 p.m., at Rooster Hall.