Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

TOP STORY >>Cabot pressed to keep impact fees down

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that will phase in over the next three years an impact fee that will add $3,435 to the cost of the average new home. The ordinance, sponsored by Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, does less than some council members wanted and more than others expected to spend on infrastructure improvements. The council approved a fee scale that would add $1,075 to the cost of the average home in November of this year, $1,863 in November 2007, $2,648 in November 2008 and $3,435 in November 2009.

Stumbaugh said even though it was generally believed the council would pass one-quarter of the recommended fee this year (except for the fee for the fire department which would be 100 percent) and then evaluate the fee annually, he had the city attorney draft the ordinance with the full impact fee allowed phased in for the sake of continuity. The ordinance could have included a clause that said the council would vote on increasing the impact fee every year, but it is possible there would be no one on the council in two years who would know that, the mayor said.

Alderman Eddie Cook, who is running unopposed, is the only council member who is guaranteed to keep his seat. Aldermen Tom Armstrong and Odis Waymack have opponents. Five others, Bob Duke, Jerry Stephens, David Polantz, James Glenn and Patrick Hutton aren’t running for reelection. “You’ve got to have some continuity,” Stumbaugh said, adding that even the ordinance passed Monday night contained no guarantee that the full fee would be phased in. “Come Jan. 1, the new council could meet and vote to collect the full amount immediately or it could meet and vote to do away with it,” he said.

Polantz and Stephens wanted the full amount in place this year; because they say the people already living in Cabot have borne the burden of the city’s growth too long. Others, including Duke, Waymack and Armstrong said they believed the council would look at the ordinance every year to see if the fee should be increased.

Duke, who voted for the ordinance, said he didn’t realize his vote had helped phase in the full amount proposed by the impact fee study by Duncan Associates of Texas. “It’s to be brought before the council every year for evaluation,” Duke said. “That’s what I wanted. But it won’t be what I want. It will be what the new council wants.” Waymack, who is running for his fourth two-year term, said he also didn’t realize the ordinance gradually phased in the full, recommended fee.

Like Duke, he thought the council would look at the fees every year to determine if they should be increased or left alone.
And like Stumbaugh and Duke, he says the members of the next city council will be the ones to deal with the issue. And if they don’t like it they can change it. Quoting a truism credited to North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, Waymack said, “What the council doeth, the council can undoeth.”

Armstrong, running for a third term, voted with Polantz against the ordinance. But unlike the other seven council members, Arm-strong didn’t want the impact fee at all. Armstrong said he was opposed to collecting an impact fee for the fire department because the fire department already shares a one-cent sales tax with the police department.

Parks get the revenue from a one and a half cent hamburger tax and since a sales tax is paying for the new sewer plant, and that department is now being run by a commission, he said he believes it should not have financial problems.
Streets and the library alone need extra revenue, he said. Before passing the impact-fee ordinance, the council voted down 5-3 an impact-fee ordinance Polantz introduced three months ago that would have required collection of the fully recommended fee starting in November.