Columbus residents looking to voice opinions on a proposed plan to increase alcoholic beverage sale hours in the city will get their chance Aug. 31, members of the City Council announced during a Monday work session.
City officials will hold a public hearing on the matter Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. at the Columbus Municipal Complex near the intersection of Main Street and 15th Street North.
During the hearing, area residents will have an opportunity to voice opinions for or against the proposed alcoholic beverage sale ordinance before the City Council votes on the resolution next month.
If passed, the resolution would extend on-premises alcoholic beverage sales by 30 minutes Monday through Saturday and would allow Sunday on-site alcohol sales in the city.
The city”s current ordinance allows for the sale of alcohol only from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
The proposed ordinance would allow on-premises alcohol sales from 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.
Although the city is not required by law to hold a public hearing before voting on the ordinance, Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box urged city officials to seek public input on the matter.
“I think it would really be a disservice to the residents if you passed the resolution without getting any input,” Box told the council. “I”d like to at least vote on it after we hear from the public.”
After the hearing, the council likely will vote on the matter either during its Sept. 1 or Sept. 15 meeting, council members said Monday. If the resolution passes, city officials will send the request to the Mississippi Tax Commission, who then will decide if the extended hours will be implemented in the city.
During a Sept. 19 City Council work session, some Columbus officials touted the increased sale hours as a way of raising the city”s sales tax revenue and drawing more visitors to the Friendly City.
However, not all City Council members are in favor of the extension, Box said.
“We bill ourselves as a progressive city, and we are compared a lot to Tuscaloosa and Tupelo,” Box said. “But pretty much every restaurant in those cities has no drinking at all on Sundays.”
In other business, the council:
n Tentatively slashed the city”s budgeted contribution to the Columbus-Lowndes County E-911 department from $80,000 to $40,000.
The announcement came as council members reviewed the city”s fiscal year 2010 budget appropriations to several area agencies.
Although the council voted to cut E-911”s appropriations in half, city officials admitted they may revisit the decision after talking with E-911 officials.
The vote came after several council members criticized E-911 officials for not attending Monday”s budget workshop.
“You would definitely hear from them if you cut their budget in half,” Columbus Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong told the council before the motion was passed. “I honestly thought (E-911 Director) Sheri Fancher was going to be here today.”
“Well, you”re not hearing from them now,” said Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin.
“They really kind of blew us off by not being here today,” Box echoed.
The E-911 appropriations cut came after the council approved a total of $27,406 in appropriations increases to the Columbus Arts Council, the Columbus Council on Aging, the Golden Triangle Agency on Aging and the Hitching Lot Farmers” Market.
Although Box suggested the council use some of the excess appropriations money freed from the E-911 appropriations cut to help fund capital improvements at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, other council members urged the city to save the extra money for E-911.
“I don”t want them (E-911) to come back up here and request that money and put us back in a deficit,” Columbus Mayor Robert Smith said.
n Voted to budget for a civil engineer to work for the Columbus Light and Water Department and the Columbus Public Works Department.
The civil engineer will replace duties currently handled by Neel-Schaffer Engineers, the city”s engineering firm, and will be funded jointly by the city and CL&W.
Because CL&W and the city both pay Neel-Schaffer about $60,000 per year for civil engineering services, hiring a separate civil engineer likely will bring about a $20,000 overall savings, according to Neel-Schaffer Engineer Joey Hudnall.
“I would hire an engineer with between eight and 10 years of experience, plus some management history,” Hudnall said. “With that, you”re looking at about an $80,000 base salary, and benefits would bring the total to about $100,000. You would see some savings there.”
Although the council voted to pursue hiring a civil engineer, the motion still must be approved by the CL&W board of directors before the decision is finalized, Armstrong said.
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