Commission asked to wait

Published 11:03 pm Monday, April 13, 2009

Legislation to establish business license fees in Chilton County is too open-ended, some local farmers and other businessmen say.

Several who attended Monday’s county commission meeting voiced their opposition to the bill and said the public should have had more input before it was sent to Montgomery.

“I am concerned that this business license tax would deter businesses from coming to the county and would hurt those of us who are here,” Jimmy Parnell, owner of a local logging business, said.

Because the bill does not specify whether farmers or other groups would be exempt from buying business licenses, those in attendance at Monday’s meeting felt they had to choice but to speak up.

Commission chairman Tim Mims said he would not support making anyone who is exempt from paying fees pay them in the future, however.

“If you’re not buying a license now, I don’t see why you’d buy one in the future. That’s just me,” Mims told Parnell.

Tim Minor of Sunshine Farms said he would like to get behind the commission if they would get input from the public and set parameters on the proposed fees. Until then, he said, he felt he had no option but to fight the measure.

“We want to do our part,” Minor said. “All we ask right now is to keep your arms around this thing before it gets away from you and puts us out of business.”

Mims said the commission had planned on calling a public hearing before setting fees, provided that the bill passes the Alabama Legislature. He explained that the bill does not directly set business license fees but simply gives the commission the authority to set fees.

Minor said a public hearing should have been held before the legislation was approved and submitted to state Rep. Jimmy Martin.

“There are other people deciding our future,” Minor said.

Heedy Hayes, one of two commissioners who voted against the bill, the other being Joe Headley, seemed to agree with Minor.

“You ought to know what you’re going to do with it before you implement it,” Hayes told the other commissioners.

Rep. Martin, who attended the meeting, said the bill couldn’t be placed in the hopper until after it was advertised. He said the commission still had time to discuss the issue and instruct him to either proceed or withdraw. The window of time, however, would be small to re-draft the legislation and get it passed.

Commissioner Greg Moore made a motion to withdraw the legislation, but the measure was defeated 4-3 with Moore, Hayes and Headley approving.

Commissioners Tim Mims, Allen Caton, Bobby Agee and Red Turnipseed voted against asking Martin to withdraw.

Mims said a cap could be placed on the fee amount, possibly as low as $150 per year. The bill, however, allows for a fee up to 75 percent of what a business would pay under a local municipality’s license fee schedule. The commission could base its fee on the licensing schedule of any one of the four towns in Chilton County.

“If $150 a year is going to hurt somebody’s business, they don’t need to be in it,” Mims said.

Parnell said if the cap were not included in the bill, it would not be binding to the next commission administration.

“Be careful. Don’t eat your seed corn, fellows,” Parnell said.