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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2007
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George to hear concerns about city of Arab

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

HULACO — District 4 Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George has called for a meeting here with area residents to discuss a smorgasbord of concerns related to the city of Arab.

The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Tri-County Volunteer Fire Department on Alabama 67.

"There's a multitude of things I want input on from the public, from those who live in the southeastern corner of Morgan County but are within Arab's police jurisdiction," George said. "I've already gotten complaints from some of those residents who are staunchly opposed to paying a privilege tax to Arab on their power bill for police protection."

The Arab Electric Co-Op serves residents in the Hulaco and Ryan communities. George said the city adds a kilowatt charge for the privilege tax that ranges from $1.50 to $20 per month, according to power usage.

"They're charging Morgan County taxpayers for police protection Arab provides partially, but county residents don't want it," George said. "A lot of people haven't even realized they're being charged the tax. Most of the people in this area do their business in Arab, and they're already paying sales taxes there. They shouldn't be paying that privilege tax."

George said Morgan County sheriff's deputies have had more of a presence patrolling the area, and he commended their work.

He said he saw two patrol cars recently at the Hulaco Car Wash.

"The residents are confused," he said.

"For example, if they call Arab police at night on a break-in, they're told to call the Sheriff's Department. But during the day, Arab police are in Morgan County. Whatever time of day it is, (the area) is within their legal description of a PJ, but I'm not sure they're legal on that."

State Rep. Jeffrey McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, who is the Arab city attorney, said Tuesday the privilege tax to which George refers "is not actually a city tax at all, but a charge that has been established by Arab Electric Co-Op, which is apart from the city. I'm familiar with it. The city does impose a business tax on the co-op and how they recoup that tax is between the co-op and the ratepayers."

But George said that for several years, he has been watching Arab and contends that the city is "doing more and more. Now, they're over here setting up a speed trap in Hulaco. If all they're going to do is come over here and write tickets in the PJ on Alabama 67, we don't want them. If they've got sewer they want to offer us or 24-hour police protection, that's one thing, but we're far from that. They can't keep coming over here and writing tickets and running back to Arab."

Junk car issues

The commissioner contends there's more.

"Now, they're trying to enforce zoning out of Arab with an ordinance used in Morgan County to regulate junk cars, which they're calling health hazards," he said.

"People here are starting to clean up their properties. If the county needs to address an issue, it's a Morgan County issue, not an Arab city issue."

George said Arab found two people living in the county guilty of junk violations in municipal court.

"I brought it to their attention, and they dropped the charges but added that they will enforce it in the future, and I don't know what that means," he said.

"They call it a health hazard. OK, are they going to come over and spray for mosquitoes or are they going to be selective about it, and do what they want to do when they want to do it? I don't know what their agenda is."

McLaughlin also addressed the junk ordinance. He said it's Arab's responsibility as imposed by state law to maintain health and sanitation in the city and within the three-mile PJ.

"Junk tends to create health hazards from letting water settle and vermin getting established," he said. "From that standpoint, the city does enforce it."

McLaughlin added, "I know the city wants to maintain a good relationship with the people in Morgan County and throughout the PJ. I'm sure of that. The city does provide at least as much service as it receives in revenue."

Ambulance service

Arab does provide one service of which George approves, and that's ambulance service.

"But they should do that with as much taxes as we spend in Arab," said George, who lives in Ryan.

Keeping a log

George said he is keeping a log of everything he and his family buy in Arab.

He's advocating that others do the same, to "show how much we're spending there already that we don't have to. We could go to south Huntsville but gasoline is so high."

George concedes that because he is in Decatur so much, he purchases "a lot of major items (in Decatur). But older folks like my mom and dad buy their pharmaceuticals and most of their groceries and small appliances in Arab because of the economics of it."

Hulaco meeting

For more information about a Thursday meeting at Hulaco over the Arab police jurisdiction, call District 4 Commissioner Stacy George at 256-778-8515.

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