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Lake Charles City Council will hold hearings on taxes

Last Modified: Thursday, December 05, 2013 10:12 AM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

After discussing two possible sales and use taxes during last week’s City Council agenda meeting, Mayor Randy Roach took another step in the process of getting the information out to the public. Two resolutions were passed to call public hearings and publish notices about the taxes. Roach said the meeting for the one-cent and the quarter-cent sales and use taxes will be at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 7 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 326 Pujo St.

The one-cent sales tax was originally authorized in 1965, and the quarter-cent sales tax was originally authorized in 1995. If passed, the quarter-cent tax would last 10 years beginning April 2015. The penny tax, if approved, would be collected for 25 years, beginning March 2015.

A hotly debated item on the agenda dealt with amending the city’s code of ordinances. The amendment would provide for property owners to remove hazardous dead and dying trees from their property and face penalties for not complying. Concerns about the item arose when the council began discussing the cost of the tree removal and the process of removing trees from private property.

City Councilwoman Mary Morris sponsored the ordinance. “All of this started because of the adjudicated property,” Morris said. Adjudicated property is property that has been placed in state or local government hands because local property taxes have not been paid.

Several council members were concerned about the city being stuck with the bill for clearing property once residents began making requests. Councilman Dana Jackson said the price to remove trees can be steep.

“Those trees are expensive. You start tagging that to somebody’s house, you’re going to start having problems,” Jackson said.

City Attorney Billy Loftin led the discussion about the ordinance. He described how the council should be careful when deciding what to do on private property and the fees that could come with determining whether to remove the trees. He described the possible ordinance as a “very unique predicament” for the city to put itself in. Eventually, the council unanimously voted against the item.

Councilman Stuart Weatherford and Dana Jackson both voted against an item regarding the Lake Charles riverfront parkway. The ordinance will authorize the city to enter into an agreement with the state Department of Transportation and Development for the project. Roach said the numbers for the project are 80 percent from the state and 20 percent from the city. The city’s 20 percent will be $60,000. The city is funding early stage assessments to see whether construction could take place.

“We’re going to add another road that needs maintenance. I don’t think that’s prudent at this point,” Weatherford said. He would later add that the city has “plenty of unfinished bond projects” that could be worked on instead. “We need to fix what we have.”

The ordinance eventually passed with only the two votes against.

The council also approved the reappointment of Don Dixon as chief of police. Roach said the city’s officers follow in Dixon’s footsteps.

“Their leadership and dedication is reflective of the leadership and dedication of our chief of police,” he said.

Several of the council members took turns praising Dixon. Councilman Rodney Geyen said the police are always available for the residents. “They’re there when we call for them; they’re there when you don’t call for them,” he said.

Jackson kept his response short: “I’m just glad he’s reappointed.”

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