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TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2007
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Splitting alcohol money at issue

Resource center, dry vote concerns for Athens council

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — Ever watched a movie where the plot line split into multiple subplots?

That's what it was like keeping up with the major question facing the Athens City Council on Monday.

The main plot line is whether the council should split the first-year cost with the Limestone County Commission of funding a director for a proposed Family Resource Center.

The center would provide services such as substance abuse rehabilitation, child visitation and domestic violence counseling. Shannon Cameron with the Limestone County Department of Human Resources said the steering committee, which includes District Judge Jeanne Anderson, needs seed money to hire a director and then the director can seek grant money to fund the center. The Limestone County Commission has approved paying its half and housing the center in its facility at the Crutcher Shopping Center on Jefferson Street.

These are the subplots that resulted from the council's discussion:

First, where does the council get the $26,000 needed? Councilman Ronnie Marks said to use alcohol money to fund the 2007 fiscal year portion. Mayor Dan Williams said the council is saving that money in a separate account and should save it for capital needs.

Second, Williams said there are petitions circulating to get a vote on the August 14 ballot to revert Athens to a dry city. The Aug. 14 ballot will have the 1-cent sales tax increase vote for Limestone and Athens City schools. Petitions are circulating through church congregations, in particular Baptist and Church of Christ congregations. Council President Harold Wales said the possibility of L&S Grocery selling alcohol adjacent to Northside Church of Christ, and the VFW on Alabama 127 selling hard liquor instead of just beer have spurred the petitions.

Third, Williams said other entities should divvy up the cost. He said the Limestone County and Athens City Schools should share in the cost since a center would benefit families with school-aged children. Williams said the county also can fund more since there is a bill currently being advertised that says the commission will get 3 percent of an increase in Tennessee Valley Authority in-lieu-of-tax money, and the commission now requires the city to pay about $50,000 for collecting its property taxes.

Fourth, Wales refused to put the request on the budget because he said it needs more discussion. Wales asked each council member to give their opinion about funding the center. Wales said funding the center would cut capital purchases. The other council members spoke in favor of it. Marks said although Wales refused to put the vote on the agenda, he could introduce the request for action at the May 29 meeting, which he did.

At that meeting, the council will vote on whether to give the project $6,500 from alcohol revenues for August through September, and then look at the remainder of funding when it does the 2008 fiscal budget.

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