By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
April 3, 2014 — Tuesday night’s special meeting of Olive Hill City Council was highlighted by the city’s first steps toward regulating alcohol sales.
Council conducted the first reading of an ordinance to regulate alcohol sales within the city limits.
The lengthy ordinance took an hour to read and covered all issues of regulation from types of licenses, regulatory fees, enforcement and administration.
Under the provisions of the proposed ordinance, the city would impose a four percent regulatory fee on alcoholic beverages by the drink and a six percent fee for packaged sales.
The law also calls for the hiring of an alcoholic beverage control administrator who would be the primary administrative and regulatory contact for alcohol-related issues in the city.
No specific details were given regarding work hours or compensation for the position. In Grayson, that job is held by the city attorney.
Under state law, the city has 60 days to prepare to regulate legal sales from the date of the March 11 local option election.
When discussion turned to the city budget, Council member Glenn Meade moved to table the issue until the legal ramifications of spending utility profits could be ascertained.
Council deadlocked at 3-3 on the motion, with Meade, Enoch Hicks and Randy Tackett voting in favor, and Allen Stapleton, Matt Kiser and Jerry Callihan opposing.
Mayor Kenny Fankell broke the tie and killed the motion by voting no.
Next was the first reading of an ordinance amending the current fiscal year budget by adding $102,807 in utility profits to the general fund.
Meade addressed the Council as to why he had been missing from the last several City Council meetings.
“I’ve not been at these past few meetings due to conflicts and every time I informed the city attorney in advance that I would not be present,” said Meade.
He went on to document his concerns about transferring utility funds to the city’s general fund, going so far as to assert that such a move is against the law.
“I do not believe the budget should be supplemented by utility funds. I can cite a report from the attorney general’s office that says just that,” he added. “It’s not willful neglect to attempt to stop an illegal act and I don’t think it’s reasonable for our citizens to overpay for utilities,”
Fankell opposed the assertion that citizens are being overcharged for their utilities.
“We paid $35,000 to have a professional come in here and look at our rates and draw up a new ordinance. It was passed by a 4-0 vote of the Council, of which Mr. Meade made the motion,” Fankell said.
“We’re not overcharging. The rate is set by an ordinance that this council adopted. So don’t sit back here and say that people are being overcharged,” the mayor added.
“What the mayor doesn’t tell you is that gouging can also constitute paying city workers from the utility fund when they should be paid out of the general fund,” Meade retorted.
Both agreed to end the discussion at that juncture since there is a lawsuit pending against the city regarding past utility rates.
In other business, Council conducted the first reading of an ordinance that would annex West Carter Middle School into the city limits.
When the annexation is finalized, staff members at the school will be subject to the city’s occupational payroll tax.
Council will conduct second readings of the budget amendment and alcohol ordinance at a special meeting on Tuesday, April 8, at 6 p.m.
Joe Lewis can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 286-4201.