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2 levies on ballot for in Athalia

ATHALIA — It will be up to the voters in the Village of Athalia on May 6 to determine whether the community gets left in the dark.

Two new five-year levies — a 1-mill fire levy that would generate $2,930 annually and a 2-mill current expense (general operating) levy that would generate $5,860 annually will be on the ballot.

Lawrence County Chief Deputy Auditor Chris Kline said as of Jan. 1, 2013, the village’s general fund was $10,816.45 in the red. Kline said there is no budget for 2014 on file in the auditor’s office.

Village of Athalia Mayor Gary Simpson said the need for these levies existed last year but a paperwork snafu kept them from being placed on the ballot.

“We needed this last year, but the firm we hired didn’t fill out the paperwork correctly,” he said.

Currently Athalia has a contract with Rome Fire Department so that every resident in the village has fire protection. With the levy in place, the fire department can apply for grants to help Athalia get much-needed fire hydrants, Simpson said.

“The fire department can’t ask for grants without a levy in place to guarantee funds,” Simpson said. “Rome Fire Department will continue to provide service without the levy, but homeowners will be billed for it. The levy also provides insurance in the event of firefighter injury or property damage.”

Simpson also admits the village is low on general funds.

“Columbus takes more than half of our general fund,” Simpson said. “The state has cut funding from property and gasoline tax, which is where we get the money for our general fund. Athalia has no way of generating those funds on its own. We don’t have a lot of businesses here to create that tax base. With a levy generating funds the state can’t take that money because levies are voted on by the people.”

Paying the $450 a month utility bill for the village’s 39 streetlights is another one of Simpson’s concerns. He said the 2-mill current expense levy would ensure the streetlights stay illuminated.

“Right now the state sends a check and when we get it that’s all we’re going to get,” he said. “We just want to keep our 39 street lights on and pay for fire service. We have a water bill and heat bill and we don’t want Athalia to be in the dark with crime the way it is.”

Simpson, who is serving his seventh year as mayor, said none of the money generated from the current expense levy money would be used for raises.

Council next meets at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 5, a change from the usual meeting day of the first Tuesday of every month because of the primary election. Simpson will have an informational meeting from 6-7 p.m. The meetings will revert to the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in June.