Valley tax revenues skyrocket, mayor proposes subdivision

Published 9:30 am Saturday, February 25, 2023

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VALLEY — In its first work session of the new calendar year, the Valley City Council on Thursday evening dealt with a number of topics including current financials, a proposed subdivision on 30th Street, some new rules for towing companies and possibly allowing backyard chickens in Valley. 

On a big screen TV in the conference room at city hall, City Clerk/Treasurer Cathy Snowden reviewed the financials. This included the final numbers for fiscal year 2021-22 and the data for the first four months of FY 2022-23.

While there’s talk of an economic recession in some quarters, things appear to be going great in Valley. Sales tax receipts have been excellent. December’s revenue set a new record with over $905,000 coming in.

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“Valley is not in a recession,”Mayor Leonard Riley said. “Our local unemployment rate is 2.3 percent. I think our local merchants will be doing well when the income tax refund checks start coming back.”

Riley said he was pleased that all city departments were within their budgets over the first four months of the new fiscal year. He credited this to the department heads doing good work in watching their budgets.

The city has just under $470,000 still left in stimulus money from the federal government.

This money could be used in the development of a new subdivision near the existing Waterford neighborhood off 30th Street. Riley is looking at purchasing a 30-acre site near the river behind Valley Baptist Church extending toward EAMC-Lanier Hospital. What’s being looked at is a 33-lot subdivision. The city would clear off the site with its equipment and see that water and sewer lines went in. The home building would be done by private contractors.

The 33-lot site is on the left side of 30th Street heading toward the river. The city owns 370 acres on the right side of the road in the direction of the hospital. It’s possible to have an 87-lot subdivision on that side of the road.

There’s no immediate action to be taken on this but Mayor Riley asked council members to be thinking about the city taking some steps for this to come about. He also asked them to think about having a walking trail along the river in this area.

Riley said that no money would be spent on future development without being approved by the council.

“There’s been a whole lot of iffin’ going on,” said Council Member Jim Jones. “Things have been really slow at Camellia Crossing. Only one new home has been sold there.”

Developing the two sites on 30th Street could cost $770,000 on one side of the road and $1.8 million on the other.

For now, this is just in the talking stage. The 30-acre land purchase could be on the agenda for this coming Monday’s meeting.

Officer M.J. Jones talked to the council about having some stronger rules in regard to towing fees. He said he had recently talked to a Valley woman who had been charged $750 to have her car towed. “It should not have been that high,” he said.

Jones said he looked at the bill and that it had lots of unnecessary fees added on to make it a sky-high amount.

He said that he’d been able to negotiate that bill to a more reasonable cost for the woman but that some action needed to be taken to keep Valley residents safe from being ripped off by wrecker drivers.

“There has been some gouging going on, and we want to take people off the rotation if they have been overcharging people,” Jones said.

Jones added that most local towing companies had been fair with their customers.

Valley residents have been getting a break on their garbage bills, but that will change in May. Those bills will be a bit higher than what’s being paid now.  Several council members told the mayor they had gotten no complaints of the job being done thus far by C&C Sanitation. The new rate will be going up from $19 a month to $26. Seniors will be charged $20 a month.

Riley asked council members if they were okay with that. The consensus was that for now, people are looking for better service than they got last year from AmWaste and so far that’s been taking place.

Council Member Kendall Andrews brought up the subject of backyard chickens. The council previously considered this but did not approve an ordinance that would allow it. Nearby cities Opelika and Auburn have such an ordinance permitting backyard chickens.

The recent high prices for eggs could be a factor is taking a second look at this. In 2022, egg prices were way up largely due to an outbreak of avian flu, which killed millions of egg-laying hens. Chickens being raised for meat weren’t affected by the outbreak. Those prices were down.

Andrews said the present ordinance could allow Valley residents to have up to five egg-laying chickens on their property.

“If we were to take a poll on this right now, I think a majority of Valley residents would support people having a limited number of chickens,” Andrews said.

“I think it would be close, but I think the majority would support it,” said Council Member Jim Clark.

Council Member Jones said he thought it would be best to have a separate ordinance on this. “The present ordinance limits people to five animals,” he said. “What if they have three dogs? Can they have five chickens or two? I’m in favor of people having chickens, but I think it needs to be allowed in a separate ordinance. “

A growing number of Alabama cities are allowing people to keep backyard chickens, provided they keep a limited number of them in enclosed spaces and they keep the area sanitary. The City of Birmingham, for example, will allow people to have as many as 25 chickens and two roosters, Huntsville requires 15 square feet per bird with no limits, and Jacksonville has no limit on numbers. That’s understandable in a town whose college team is nicknamed Gamecocks.