Emergency Services Committee meeting fizzles
by Laura Camper
Nov 19, 2013 | 2754 views |  0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HEFLIN -- A meeting of a Cleburne County committee charged with hammering out details of a proposed 2-mill tax to benefit the emergency agencies in the county went on without its members.

Directing his remarks to two members of the public, including an Anniston Star reporter, County Administrator Steve Swafford presented a recap of the last meeting and the topics the committee had been expected to address at Tuesday’s meeting.

This was to be the fifth meeting of the committee created by the Cleburne County Commission to write sample legislation for local legislators that would call for a referendum for a 2-mill tax. The tax was proposed by the commission to fund countywide emergency communications, Cleburne Search and Rescue, which currently receives no public dollars, as well as to augment funding for the county’s volunteer fire departments.

An additional 2-mill tax on a home valued at $100,000 would mean roughly an extra $20 on the homeowner’s annual tax bill.

A 2-mill tax brings in about $240,000 in Cleburne County, according to Joyce Fuller, Cleburne County Revenue Commissioner. About $200,000 is from property taxes and about $40,000 is from car tags, she said.

At the previous meeting on Nov. 5, state Rep. Richard Laird, I-Roanoke, suggested enacting a sin tax on alcohol and cigarettes rather than a 2-mill tax. By then, however, some of the members, such as Ranburne Fire Chief Carl Smith, had expressed concerns that the process was getting off track.

Tuesday, Smith said later his frustration was one of the reasons he didn’t attend the meeting. He works from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in his store in Ranburne and has to take time off to go to the meetings, Smith said.

“I couldn’t afford to waste any more time when I felt like we were way off track with what we were asked to do,” Smith said.

The other members all cited work or personal commitments that kept them from the meeting. But this is the first time that all nine members were no-shows, said Swafford.

Commissioner Emmett Owen said by phone Tuesday that the tax was first proposed as a way to fund Cleburne Search and Rescue after they came to the commission for some emergency funding.

“It bloomed from there,” Owen said. “I care deeply about search and rescue and the fire association.”

Owen said he is serious about putting together the legislation for the referendum; but he noted, “If none of the committee members show up, I guess it’s kind of dead in the water.”

However, Owen said he’s not willing to let it the issue die. If the committee can’t come together, the commissioners might have to write the legislation themselves, Owen said.

Commissioner Laura Cobb said it’s also important to her that the committee accomplish its task.

“My whole goal is to be able to fund search and rescue,” Cobb said. “That’s what I want to see, whether it’s a 2-mill tax or some other way.”

She said she’ll be attending more of the meetings to see the proceedings for herself. Cobb also noted that all the committee members work other jobs and it may be hard for them to get away to every meeting. But she said she was surprised that none of them showed Tuesday.

“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe this is that once in a lifetime — hopefully.”

Efforts to reach commissioners Benji Langley and Bobby Brooks for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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