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New Hoschton mayor could face property tax issue

POSTED: October 18, 2009 10:41 p.m.

HOSCHTON — This year’s election will usher a new mayor who could face the hot-button issue of whether to impose a property tax in the small town.

Three people are vying for the position: Robbie Bettis, Erma Denney and Jim Keinard. Current mayor Bill Copenhaver is not running for re-election.

At a recent political forum, Denney, who is opposed to a property tax, asked both Keinard and Bettis whether they favored the city implementing a tax. Keinard said he is against the idea while Bettis said she would support it only as a last resort.

However, Keinard said the city may be forced to implement a tax due to its two loans with the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

“I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to go without a property tax because one of the things that’s looming right now is that GEFA loan,” he said. “And the GEFA loan agreement may force us into a property tax.”

Hoschton currently has two loans totaling about $6.4 million with GEFA, and both concern the city’s wastewater treatment plant. As of Aug. 25, the city also received approval from GEFA for an additional $300,000 — which will be added to the second loan — to repair the plant’s phase separator.

Keinard also said he was in favor of allowing citizens to vote on whether they wanted a property tax, and if it needed to be implemented, at what rate they want it to be set.

At the recent forum, all three mayoral candidates also were asked how they would spend the money Hoschton is set to receive in a lawsuit it recently settled. All three said they would use it to help repay the GEFA loans.

Hoschton recently settled a lawsuit with its former wastewater treatment plant engineer Charlie Armentrout of Armentrout, Roebuck & Matheny Consulting Group for more than $725,000. The city filed suit against the engineer in January 2008 regarding design flaws in the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which was completed in 2005.

“It is absolutely critical that we do not spend $1 outside of this settlement for anything other than paying for that GEFA loan,” Denny said. The city is currently repaying the loans at $18,000 a month.
Bettis and Keinard concurred with Denney.

Also in Hoschton, four city council posts will be up for election — Posts 1, 2, 3 and 5. The council members who hold the positions now are not running for re-election.

Sandie Romer, who works for Roper Pump in Commerce, is running unopposed for the Post 1 seat. Jim Higginbottom, who is retired and is a first-time candidate, is running unopposed for the Post 2 seat.

Jim Cleveland, owner of J&S Residential Construction and who is a first-time candidate, is running unopposed for the Post 3 seat. Scott Butler qualified for the Post 5 position during a special qualifying period Oct. 6-8 for Tom Walden’s vacant spot on the city council.

Butler is running unopposed for the position.



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