Council to hold first reading of 5-cent gas tax

Published 8:50 pm Monday, February 11, 2019

The Selma City Council advanced plans to give Selma Mayor Darrio Melton’s ordinance to impose an additional 5-cent tax on gas a first read during Monday’s work session. The proposal will go before the council Tuesday night during the regular meeting.

The work session started off with Selma resident Tom Headley taking issues with the city’s public information request, which he claims requires citizens to sign a contract in order to gain access to public information.

Headley cited state and federal laws which lack language that says a person has “to sign a contract to receive public information.”

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Further, Headley took exception to the fact that the city requires a person to fill out a city-drafted form, despite the fact that no state or federal laws dictate how a request should be filed, as well as with the cost of gaining copies of said materials.

“A lot of folks can’t afford that,” Headley said.

Councilman Carl Bowline is slated to head up a committee that will take a look at the cost associated with accessing public information, as well as the language in the city’s form.

The council also heard from Bishop James Marshall, pastor at Christian Grace Apostolic Church, who just found out that his church is not within the city limits – members of the church have signed a petition to have the church re-annexed into the city.

“I’ve always advocated for this city to grow,” said Councilman John Leashore. “That’s the simple thing to do. Let’s stop talking about annexation and let’s move forward and do it.”

Councilwoman Angela Benjamin, who is a member of the church, agreed.

John Harris, Jr. also addressed the council regarding his attempts to have his wrecker service added to the 911 dispatch rotation, an effort he has been undertaking since the end of January.

According to Harris, an ordinance in the city requires that he get the council’s approval before he can be added to the rotation. Harris said he has been trying to get his trucks inspected by the Selma Police Department (SPD) for the last several weeks to no avail.

“We’re going to make sure you get everything you need,” said Councilman Michael Johnson.

Benjamin asked that Harris’ request be expedited, but Melton noted that he would have to look into.

During the mayor’s report, Melton touched on the need to establish flat fees for public building rentals, the need to revisit cemetery fees and the need to hire a full-time Landfill Director.

Council President Corey Bowie asked that the mayor also provide council members with a list of businesses delinquent on their licenses, as the deadline for paying those fees was Jan. 23.

Leashore briefly brought up his idea of instituting a gunshot ordinance, similar to one passed in Montgomery, as a way of stemming the rash of violence in Selma.

“We’ve got to let these thugs know they’re not going to just pull out their guns and shoot because, if we don’t do something about it, it’s going to be like the wild, wild west,” Leashore said.

The mayor also discussed a partnership that he and Johnson are fostering with a group of local pastors known as the United for Selma Partnership, which is looking to use city-owned land in Ward 8 to establish programs for young people in an effort to provide an alternative to gang affiliation.

Council members were supportive of the measure, despite the fact that Councilwoman Jannie Thomas noted that she has been trying to establish a similar initiative in her ward with no success.

“This is what I’ve been trying to do for two years,” Thomas said. “I won’t give up for my area, for my kids. We have to save our kids from becoming drug dealers and picking up guns.”

Melton noted that he had sent out a round of financial statements to council members and Bowie asked if the city handbook allowed for laid-off workers to receive back pay.

After consulting with Human Resources Director Sean VanDiver, Melton stated that it is.

The question arose in response to a check paid out to a laid off employee Friday for $2,931.83. The check states that zero hours were worked and the pay dates were only Feb. 8. The hours code on the check says “difference in pay rate.”

Melton then had a TV rolled out and the council gathered with the audience as the mayor discussed his broadband initiative, which is set to launch in the next week or so and provide WiFi throughout downtown.

Melton noted that Selma is in line with major cities in the state as a “1 gig city.”

“I think it’s a great thing for our city,” Melton said. “It’s good news for Selma. We missed I-65, we cannot afford to miss our broadband infrastructure.”

The mayor also unveiled his proposed Open Data Selma page, which will provide citizens with real-time data on a variety of city functions, including budgets, work orders and statistics from the SPD and Selma Fire Department (SFD).

“That’s the kind of technology we’re trying to use to be more transparent in the City of Selma,” Melton said.

Curtis Wimberly, one of the workers laid off in November, attempted to ask a question about the project but the mayor stated that he would not be taking questions from citizens during a council meeting.

The mayor also displayed a screen showing live camera footage from cameras posted throughout downtown, which he said will help with crime. Melton stated that many more cameras were in operation throughout the city but they couldn’t be discussed due to public safety reasons.

“’Big Brother’ is everywhere,” Bowie said.

Melton announced that he would be hosting a Mayor’s Black Belt Broadband Conference Feb. 28 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. to find ways to partner with other cities in the region and help them build up their broadband infrastructure.

“All cities in the Black Belt can benefit from this technology,” Melton said. “As goes Selma, so goes this region.”

Plans were also unveiled to make changes to GWC Homes, specifically blocking off St. Ann Street in an effort to curb the violence being unleashed in “the horseshoe,” which has been the site of two murders this year.

The changes, including wider curbs, new gates, blocking access to hiding areas between buildings and more, are meant to make it more difficult for criminals to flee and easier for police to nab wrongdoers, according to Selma Housing Authority ExecutiveDirector Kennard Randolph.