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LaFayette council approves funding for EMA

At their Monday meeting, the LaFayette City Council voted to approve an allocation of $10,494 for the next fiscal year for the Emergency Management Agency.

“In the letter [I provided], it breaks down the costs associated with what you allocated to us the past 10 years,” said Jessica Yeager, director of Chambers County EMA & 911. “It’s been the same amount, and we are so thankful for that. Unfortunately, our roles, our operations and our responsibilities have changed dramatically in the last ten years.”

Yeager said that a lot of citizens don’t realize that even though the Chambers County 911 and EMA are in the same office, they’re separate agencies with separate budgets.

In other business at the meeting, the council approved chemical bids for fiscal year 2021 through 2022 for the water and waste plant, as well as an offer from Alabama Rural Water Association to conduct a system evaluation.

“They are willing to come in and do a system evaluation for us to see if they can help us out with some of the issues we’re having with why our tanks are draining at night and why some of our tanks are giving us problems,” said Ann Gleaton, superintendent of the LaFayette water and waste plant. “And it’s a free service that they’re offering to do.”

Chris Busby, deputy director of the Chambers County Development Authority, explained why the development authority was in favor of a potential sales tax increase.

“The increase in sales tax is not going to drive off or prohibit any companies from coming to LaFayette,” he said. “In my experience, I have never once had an industry, a retailer, or a commercial company ask me about the sales tax. Never once. I have had multiple entities, specifically retail, be happy about the high sales tax, and the reason for that is the only way you can incentivize a retail company … the only monetary way you can incentivize them is through a sales tax reimbursement. So, if you have a retailer that wants to come into the city, and you have a 10% sales tax, you have the ability to incentivize them with a sales tax reimbursement that is much higher than a community that is at eight percent, six percent, or anything like that.”

Busby said people and companies ask him about services and resources the city can provide to them.

“Industries want water, sewer, reliable power,” he said.

“They want good roads. They want good community support. They want good public safety. These are the things they want. The same with restaurants, clothing stores, things like that — they want an infrastructure in place so that their businesses can be successful.”

He argued that people wouldn’t drive to LaFayette to take advantage of a lower sales tax.

“While in theory that sounds like a good idea, in practice, that is not an actual thing that happens,” he said. “Nobody’s going to drive 30 minutes to save one cent on sales tax. … We are right on the border of Georgia. The surrounding cities have a smaller sales tax than us. Look at where all the restaurants are in comparison to the state line. None of them are over there in West Point or anything like that. They’re all in the Valley area.”

Busby also argued that since 2010 the populations of Valley and Lanett have increased significantly despite their sales tax, so a higher sales tax probably wouldn’t drive people away from LaFayette.

“To me, what is the most important thing for the city is increased revenue to provide public services, to provide infrastructure, to provide resources and support to your businesses,” he said. “I believe a sales tax increase could do that. And as I’ve mentioned before, this county is an equalization sales tax county. If the city goes up, the county goes up. The county then can provide additional resources outside the city limits, which can entice more businesses, more people to come. Provide more jobs for people.”

As he did at a previous meeting, LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines announced that there would be a town hall meeting on Sept. 23 during which the council and mayor will go over plans and citizens will be able to share their input. In an email, Vines said the meeting will be at 6 p.m. CT.