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Longest serving councilman honored

By Dwain W. Penn When Williamson mayor Steve Fry called the Jan. 7 meeting to order, two special guests were present to observe the proceedings, councilman Benson Hilley and his wife, Martha. Special recognition and esteem were announced through a presentation to Hilley for his history-making service to the city as Fry bestowed a commemorative gavel to the guest of honor. ”We have a VIP in our midst tonight,’ Fry said to open the special ceremony. ‘According to the state of Georgia records along with our own files, Mr. Benson has served longer than any other council member in the state. We would like to honor your service by presenting you with this gavel, which we know you will find some use for it.’ Fry went on to express for council, the city, county and state the mutual sentiment of appreciation for the longevity of his service to his community not only as a member of council but as a successful businessman, too. Martha Hilley was recognized and thanked in closing remarks allowing council to transition to the next item of business, which concerned occupational taxes. For years local businesses paid an annual fee for a license to operate. Several years ago the state approved an ordinance changing the program, requiring businesses to pay an occupational tax instead of a license fee. Most public businesses in the city, those operating openly on commercial properties, have complied with the requirements paying the tax every year. However, numerous residents who have been approved by council to operate a home business have failed to keep their tax payment current each year. ’This creates a dilemma,’ said Fry assessing the situation. ‘Home businesses are not allowed to have advertisement visible from the road or even display inventory. Because of these rules, the city, responsible for assessing the tax, must guess the status of these home businesses. Have they ceased to exist or have they simply quit paying the occupational tax?’ City clerk Karen Brentlinger contacted some known home businesses by letter in December and three have responded to the notice. To be fair to all businesses in the city, home businesses must pay the $35 tax before the end of January and the license kept on display at the business throughout the year. Failure to comply is in violation of both city and state codes. COUNCIL ALSO: ’¢ Approved the end-of-year report on the 2015 budget. For the general fund, the city received 114% of projected revenues and spent 103% of anticipated costs. The water and garbage budget had an income of $120,000, offset by $96,000 in expenses. ’¢ Heard from councilman Howard Busby that he is happy the recycling dumpster is gone from city hall. Residents are still illegally dumping recyclables at the site and, if it continues, action will be taken to find the violators. A comment was made that Dependable Waste is guilty of littering along streets as it uses an open trailer to haul recyclables picked up in the city. ’¢ Received the library report for the month of December and the entire year of 2015. December had 81 patrons, $32.35 income and 32 books donated. The 2015 totals were 1,222 patrons, $469.68 income and 1,861 donated books. Approval was granted for the library to host an ‘I Y Williamson’ photo contest. Details will be available soon at the LEAF. ’¢ Agreed to place emphasis on a solution and turn up the heat for the owners of the blighted, burned out property on Highway 362 West. Conditions there still pose a public hazard. ’¢ Scheduled a public hearing with the planning commission for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2. A second hearing will be included during the regular council meeting on Feb. 4. ’¢ Approved keeping the existing fee schedules for building permits, parks and recreation, sign permits and soliciting permits. Water fees were raised by one nickle for all categories of water usage above 1,500 gallons a month. The city attorney contract was approved with no increase. Action on the water superintendent contract, auditor contract and mowing contract were tabled pending further investigation and discussion. ’¢ Heard the Georgia Rural Water Association will help the city update its water lines map at no charge. ’¢ Entered into closed session to discuss personnel and potential litigation, reconvening to approve action by the board of appeals in consideration of five building applications rejected by the city as improperly filed just prior to the 90 day zoning and building moratorium.

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