With the referendum to approve a $6 million bond to pay for the construction of three new fire stations in the Canton area less than a month away, some Canton city councilmen attempted to get mayoral support for a yes vote during Thursday's regular meeting.
Councilmen Hooky Huffman and John Beresford were vocal in their support of the passage of the bond referendum, and asked Mayor Gene Hobgood to use his "clout" to convince citizens that voting for the bond was a good idea.
The $6 million bond will pay for the construction of fire stations at the Canton Marketplace, at the Bluffs Parkway, and at Laurel Canyon. The new fire stations, once operational, would reduce the city's ISO rating, lowering insurance rates for citizens.
"This is the first step in our vision for the city," Huffman said during the Jan. 18 meeting. "I would have to question the vision of those who are against this."
During Thursday's meeting, Huffman announced that documentation about the bond was now available at the city's website (and attached to this article), and then read into the record most of the information presented in the document.
The documents explain that although the legally allowed interest rate of the bond is 5.5 percent, the city expects that the interest rate on the fire bond will be much lower. To service the debt incurred by the bond, millage rates will increase two-thirds of a mill.
Once the fire stations are up and running, millage rates will be increased to three mills to help pay for their operational costs. This amounts to $120 for every $100,000 of value a property has.
Not mentioned in the documents is the fact that not all $6 million in bonds need to be taken out at once. In fact, the city does not even have to issue all $6 million in bonds if costs are less than anticipated.
Beresford said that he had talked to many Canton residents about the city's fire stations, and that all were "shocked" when they discovered the city only has two fire stations.
The councilman then attempted to put Mayor Gene Hobgood "on the spot," and asked him to publicly support a yes vote on the referendum. Hobgood responded that he supported the people's right to choose, but was unsure if he was legally allowed to use his position and influence to stump for a position on a vote.
City Attorney Robert M. Dyer said that there was a prohibition of using city resources and employees to push for a voting position, but speculated that once the mayor and council members are "off the clock," they may come out in support or opposition to the referendum as they see fit.
The city council handled other business, such as approving the construction of an office building at the Hickory Log Creek Reservoir and approving the mayor's slate of committee candidates for this year. The following changes were made to the slate before it was adopted:
- David Resendiz will replace Councilman Jack Goodwin on the Canton Building Authority. Councilmembers are not allowed to serve on city committees unless explicitly stated in the committee's bylaws.
- Jennifer Wyatt, Cherokee High School Graduate and former city employee, will join Canton Tourism, Inc.
- Stefan Lewitt will replace Goodwin on the Tree City of Canton board.
- Skip Spears was removed from the Stormwater Advisory Board and replaced with Bruce Ayer. This move was brought forth by Beresford.
Councilman Glen Cummins mentioned Cherokee Commission Chairman Buzz Ahren's plea for cities in Cherokee to contribute to the county's Office of Economic Development.
"I think it's a reasonable request and I'd like everyone to think about it," he said.
Huffman supported the initiative, stating that the only way to increase city revenue is by attracting new business to Canton, and that helping support the county's efforts would further that aim. He cautioned that Canton's economic development should take precedence over county development.