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Vehicle fee topic at city council

Could total $15 more per license plate

The big topic of discussion at the Ironton City Council meeting on Thursday night was a permissive tax of $15 per licensed vehicle registered in town. There were three ordinances on the agenda of $5 each, which means if all three passed it would be $15 per car, truck, camper, utility trailer, motorcycle, and golf cart. By state law, the money from those fees could only on Ironton’s roads.

The ordinances only got first reading, meaning that there will be two more readings at the next two meetings. It wouldn’t be voted on until the April 12 meeting.

Councilman Nate Kline said it was set up that way so the council members could get input from the public.

He said that he has heard numerous complaints from citizens about the condition of the roads and alleys and that the fees are needed for a number of reasons including that most road project grants require matching funds from the city, it will cost more the longer it is until the roads are fixed, and that with additional revenue, new roads could be built which could spur economic development.

He added that many cities have similar fees, Portsmouth, Athens and Gallipolis have fees that range from $15-$20.
Councilman Craig Harvey pointed out that the ordinance is “first come, first served.”

“So if the county were to enact this, it totally cuts out the option of us doing this,” he said. “It’s either us or the county, so I would rather beat them to the punch and us take advantage of this.”

The city takes in approximately $52,000 a year from a current $5 license fee that goes towards road work. It was noted that just doing one block of road, from curb to curb, costs around $30,000.

Councilman Jim Tordiff said agreed the roads do need repair, but wondered what the reaction of people was going to be when they got their plates renewed.

“I was wondering if we couldn’t achieve the same thing if we raised the municipal fee $1 a month, that would bring in about $60,000 a year,” he said, adding if all three city fees were raised it would bring in $180,000. “Would people rather pay a little more each month, rather than showing up at the BMV and getting hit a little harder?”

Councilman Bob Cleary said a license fee is “kind of fair” since the people paying the bill are the ones using the roads.

“I’m OK with a $5 increase, but I am not ok with a $15 fee,” he said. “You don’t have one car per household or business.”

Harvey pointed out that if the city just did a $5 fee, the county could do the other two fees and people would still have to pay $15.

“So, the reason I am in favor of it, one, we need $800,000 a year to pave all the streets in Ironton and we’re bringing in $50,000. We need to do something,” he said. “Two, the county can do it and we have no say so in it and not get any of the funds.”
Councilman Chuck O’Leary said he was tired of nitpick fees. He pointed out that when people buy their gas in Ironton, the city gets money from the tax on it, which already brings in approximately $345,000 annually.

“If 20 percent more people bought their gas here, it would be voluntary,” he said, adding they wouldn’t have to raise fees to fix roads. He also pointed out that people who don’t have cars still have someone to drive them to places. “We all use the streets.”

Mayor Katrina Keith said that her office would post the street repair plan on the city website so everyone could see it as well as explain the permissive tax on Facebook.

“I can put it out there,” she said.

She added she is talking with various government agencies about getting grants and low-interest loans in an effort to do more than one or two streets a year.

In other items on the agenda:

• Adopted an ordinance to establish the Justice Reinvestment and Incentive Fund for a grant that was went to the Ironton Municipal Court to help people with addictions.

• Adopted an ordinance to establish the Community Improvement and Investment Fund (Fund 30).

• Adopted an ordinance for the 2018 city budget.

• Passed a resolution setting forth a policy for purchasing orders for the city departments.

• Repealed Resolution 14-14, which specifies that an owner seeking an exemption in community reinvestment areas No. 3 and No. 4 must notify and obtain the approval of the Ironton Board of Education for any exemption request in excess of 50 percent for commercial and industrial property.

• Untabled and passed Resolution 18-03, which was for the Lawrence County CAO to administer grants for the city for no more than $35,000 annually. It had been tabled until the city had its 2018 budget in place.

The council meets on the second and forth Thursdays of the month.